Wednesday, March 30, 2011 2 comments

The great Nephite prayer party of 3 Nephi 19

I think we remember pretty well what the events of 3 Nephi 19 are. The news is spread abroad that Jesus has been seen and there are many who work very hard all night to get there where He will appear again. One of the main features of the chapter is an account of the disciples praying continuously and the prayers of Jesus for them, then their glowing white, and Jesus’s prayers in words that can’t be written. At the end of the chapter are these words:
35 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying he came again to the disciples, and said unto them: So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief.
36 Verily I say unto you, there are none of them that have seen so great things as ye have seen; neither have they heard so great things as ye have heard. (3 Nephi 19:35-36)
The first question I asked myself was, how did the people show their faith? As I searched the chapter, I saw a number of ways they showed faith.
  • They spread the news abroad that they had seen Jesus and Jesus would return the next day.
  • Those who heard the news worked very hard to be where Jesus would be.
  • The twelve caused all the people to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, which created great unity.
  • The twelve prayed (all of them)
  • The twelve taught all the words of Jesus.
  • The twelve prayed for the Holy Ghost to be given.
  • The twelve were baptized.
  • The twelve continued to pray.
I think it is notable that the twelve did not sit around doing nothing while they waited for Jesus to come; they seem to have determined that they needed to help the people become spiritual prepared, so they taught the people all the things Jesus had taught (bringing them up to speed), they prayed for the Holy Ghost, and they began to obey the teachings of Jesus about baptism. They did a lot in this short period of time. This reminds me of the importance of being quick to obey and do all I can to prepare myself spiritually.
…they did cause that the multitude should kneel down upon the face of the earth, and should pray unto the Father in the name of Jesus. (3 Nephi 19:6)
I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to be there as the whole crowd was praying. Did they pray out loud? Or did they pray silently? What would it feel like to be with so many people, praying, knowing they were all praying too? Stop a minute and really think about that. What would it be like if we did this today? What if we united our own prayers with those who pray in our meetings, instead of simply listening? What a way of building unity and acquiring an eye single to the glory of God!
13 And it came to pass when they [the disciples]were all baptized and had come up out of the water, the Holy Ghost did fall upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
14 And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.
15 And it came to pass that while the angels were ministering unto the disciples, behold, Jesus came and stood in the midst and ministered unto them. (3 Nephi 19:13-15)

Joseph Smith said, “If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates." (History of the Church 4:605) Joseph Smith said this about the Relief Society, as it was organized, but perhaps it applies to all who live up to their privileges, and maybe this is a case when these people, particularly the disciples, had lived up to their privileges.
16 And it came to pass that he [Jesus] spake unto the multitude, and commanded them that they should kneel down again upon the earth, and also that his disciples should kneel down upon the earth.
17 And it came to pass that when they had all knelt down upon the earth, he commanded his disciples that they should pray. (3 Nephi 19:16-17)
Why does Jesus have the disciples pray? Why not the multitude too?
Why does He have the multitude kneel too, especially if they weren’t specifically asked to pray?)

It seems that Jesus meant to make the disciples and what they did into examples for the rest of the people to follow, and He knew that the manifestations that resulted from their faith and prayers would become a precedent that would be remembered for ages. Rather than preach a long sermon about the blessings of prayer, He did something better—He created an environment of prayer that would bring the blessings that He wanted to them all to realize. He put them into a position to learn about the blessings of prayer from experience. Further, He put the whole multitude into a position that if they wanted to pray too, they could. Commanding them to kneel was an unspoken invitation for them to participate, a suggestion that they could experience the same thing as the disciples.

Why did the disciples pray to Jesus?

Elder BruceR. McConkie said, “Jesus was present before them as the symbol of the Father. Seeing him, it was as though they saw the Father; praying to him, it was as though they prayed to the Father. It was a special and unique situation that as far as we know has taken place only once on earth during all the long ages of the Lord’s hand-dealings with his children” ( The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 561). Part of me finds it very odd that the disciples prayed to Jesus, but I can imagine that if I was with Jesus and I would find it very convenient to ask Jesus directly, rather than Heavenly Father.

Another thing that caused me to marvel was that as they prayed to Jesus, He walked a little ways away and began His own prayer. Now, when I talk to someone, if they were to walk a little ways off and start praying, I would be inclined to stop talking to them because I would assume that they were no longer paying any attention to what I was saying to them. (Not to mention not wanting to interrupt their prayer..) If I had been one of the disciples, I think I might have felt a little bit hurt by Jesus walking away and saying His own prayer. It would have tested my faith a bit. Maybe it DID test their faith. Still, they kept praying determinedly along.

What made the disciples decide to KEEP praying?
Perhaps they remembered His words from the previous day when He said “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always…” (3 Nephi 18:15)

I notice that there seems to be a progression in what Jesus prays for his disciples. First, He prays that they will believe in Him that they can be one in Him. The second time, He prays for those who will believe in their words, that they can be purified in Him as the disciples had been and be one with Him like Jesus is one with the Father. The third time, He prays words that can’t be uttered, they are so great. This causes me to think that this prayer process describes a process of ascension to greater and greater stages of holiness and that at each stage, Jesus’s prayers were answered.

It is interesting that the disciples’ prayers are not recorded. The only thing we are given to know is at the beginning they pray for the Holy Ghost to be given them. Later, when Jesus prays, He thanks the Father for giving the disciples the Holy Ghost. This makes me think that perhaps Jesus’s later prayers similarly reflected the disciple’s prayers, so when He thanked the Father for purifying the disciples, that may be an indication that the disciples had prayed to be purified. However, even if we can’t say for sure what the disciples prayed for, we are given to know four wonderful things:
  • “they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray”
  • “they did not multiply many words”
  • “it was given unto them what they should pray”
  • “they were filled with desire”
It is amazing that they keep their prayers going so long, especially since they weren’t wordy about it. I’ve heard some pretty wordy prayers; a prayer can go on forever if you think of a million fancy ways to say one thing. But if you say one thing as simply as you can and say it only once, you have to find more to pray about. With simple words and no repetition, prayers can cover a huge amount of ground.

How did they not run out of things to pray? “it was given unto them what they should pray.” Somehow the Spirit prompted them as to the next thing they should pray for. And being filled with desire, they wanted to keep praying, so they allowed the Spirit to guide them. Maybe this is something I can do. Maybe if I pray for a desire to pray like those disciples, maybe I can have that experience too. Maybe the Spirit will prompt me what to pray when I’ve come to the end of my ideas and still want to keep praying.

Yet another thing I observe is that when Jesus came back from praying the first time for His disciples, He blessed them as they prayed to Him. This causes me to marvel on several levels. Were all the disciples praying at once? Different prayers? Out loud? Or were they praying in unison, with one person speaking and the others repeating? Or were they praying silently? I think they had to have been praying out loud and in unison, otherwise there would have been much confusion of voices. How did Jesus bless them as they were praying? Was it a pat-on-the-back-you’re-doing-well blessing, or was it a priesthood blessing? I think it had to be a priesthood blessing, else how are we to understand the earlier account of Jesus blessing the children? But how would He bless a priesthood blessing while they were praying, especially if they were praying out loud? It would be hard to focus on either praying or the blessing. Unless… He was blessing them to have the very things they were praying for because they were so unified..

And they were white as the countenance and the garments of Jesus and nothing could exceed that whiteness. There’s a footnote for this that simply says, “TG Transfiguration.” What an amazing thing! And Jesus, when He goes to pray again, thanks the Father for having purified those He had chosen. This seems connected to their transfiguration. It makes me wonder whether transfiguration is a sign of purification, or a privilege attached to it, or whether it is a natural result of purification, or whether it was a result of their purification, faith, and continuing prayers.

Something tells me that transfiguration like this is probably not a goal one makes when one starts praying. ("Yes, today I'm going to pray until I am transfigured.. Ready, GO!") It seems like it is probably the result of purification, faith, and continuing prayers, like that of the disciples. Will we ever know if we are transfigured? I have no idea. Could it be something that others are meant to observe as a sign of God’s light?

Another thing I notice is that in the two prayers of Jesus that are recorded in this chapter, both of them contain a request that all those who believed His disciples would have Christ in them as the Father was in Christ so that “we may be one.” Perhaps those requests were finally granted when the record says Christ prayed words that could not be written yet the multitude heard and understood with their hearts the words He said. It was a prayer to be felt more than analyzed, maybe?

I get a sense from this chapter of how strongly Jesus wants to be at one with His people and for them to be at one with the Father. (I think these prayers also inform our understanding of Jesus’s intercessory prayer in John 17.) He prays for all those who the Father has given Him out of the world that they may be purified in Him and have Him in them as the Father is in Him so that all these may be one. This fills me with hope that even today we can experience those great blessings because Jesus prayed that we would.

Finally we come again to the end of this chapter where Jesus makes the observation about their faith.
35 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying he came again to the disciples, and said unto them: So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief.
36 Verily I say unto you, there are none of them that have seen so great things as ye have seen; neither have they heard so great things as ye have heard. (3 Nephi 19:35-36)
At first glance this almost seems like a reason for the Nephites to gloat and take pride. (“Ha! We are better than the Jews!”) However, I don’t think Jesus meant to provoke pride. I think that He meant to reinforce the principle that the greater a person’s belief, the greater their action, and the greater their action, the greater the miracles they will experience. They were not told how long to pray, and they took initiative to continue to act, so the blessing was greater than it would otherwise have been. I think it is true today too; the more effort we put in to our prayers of our own free will and good desires, the greater the blessing that we can experience.

The end of this particular experience is at the beginning of the next chapter. We have to read this, otherwise we miss important information.
And it came to pass that he commanded the multitude that they should cease to pray, and also his disciples. And he commanded them that they should not cease to pray in their hearts. (3 Nephi 20:1)
We learn several important things here. We see that the multitude DID learn the lesson that Jesus wanted them to. Even though He hadn’t asked them to pray at the beginning, by the end, they were all praying too. (I also think that Mormon included this account in his record because he wanted us to learn this lesson too.)

Another interesting thing that we see is that Jesus asks the multitude and His disciples to cease to pray. But to make sure that they don’t lose the lesson they just had, He tells them not to stop praying in their hearts. This is consistent with our knowledge that the Holy Ghost teaches us that we should pray.

As I have studied this chapter over several days, I have been filled with the desire to practice the principle of praying always. I have been praying a lot more and I can testify to the great blessings of continued prayer. I have felt more in tune with what the Lord wants me to do. I have felt much closer to God and sometimes I have felt heavenly beings very near. I had this kind of experience before a few months ago, but somehow I forgot to exercise my faith and continue. I'm trying to maintain it longer than a few days.

Have you ever tried this? If so, will you share what it is like for you? If not, do you want to try it?
Thursday, March 24, 2011 2 comments

Secrets of God’s grace

In my seminary preservice class, one of my classmates was to model the scripture study skill of synthesis and he chose to focus on the scripture block of D&C 93:12-20. This provoked much thought in me and led to much research and study, the results of which I want to share with you.
12 And I, John, saw that he [Jesus] received not of the fulness at the first,
but received grace for grace;
13 And he received not of the fulness at first,
but continued from grace to grace,
until he received a fulness;
14 And thus he was called the Son of God,
because he received not of the fulness at the first. (D&C 93:12-13)
In the space of three verses (12-14) it is repeated three times that Jesus received not the fullness at first! And in the same three verses it says he “received grace for grace,” “continued from grace to grace,” and “was called the Son of God.” Clearly the Lord is trying to emphasize that He didn’t know everything at the beginning and that He had to grow into perfection. Continuing on…
15 And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened,
and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him,
and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.
16 And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
17 And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth,
and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.
18 And it shall come to pass, that if you are faithful
you shall receive the fulness of the record of John.
19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand
and know how to worship,
and know what you worship,
that you may come unto the Father in my name,
and in due time receive of his fulness.
20 For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness,
and be glorified in me as I am in the Father;
therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace. (D&C 93:12-20)
As I was reading this part, I was struck by how often the phrases “receive of his fulness” or “receive the fullness” was used.

This block says that we can all grow in grace and that we must to receive of the fullness as Christ did. The promise that we can receive “grace for grace” made me want to learn more about grace. I wanted to know how a person can receive grace for grace and what I could do to receive more grace. So I started with the Bible Dictionary. I quote:
Grace. A word that occurs frequently in the New Testament, especially in the writings of Paul. The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.

Divine grace is needed by every soul in consequence of the fall of Adam and also because of man’s weaknesses and shortcomings. However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient. Hence the explanation, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). It is truly the grace of Jesus Christ that makes salvation possible. This principle is expressed in Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:1–11). See also John 1:12–17; Eph. 2:8–9; Philip. 4:13; D&C 93:11–14.
So, grace is an enabling power to act, to do good works. (This means it would probably help us to substitute “enabling power” any time we encounter the word “grace”.)
Grace is needed because of the fall and our weaknesses.
Grace enables good works that man can’t do or continue on their own.
Grace is not enough if we don’t contribute our total effort, doing all we can do.
Grace is activated on our behalf by 1) our faith in Christ’s atonement and 2) our repentance of our sins.

Then I decided to look in the Topical Guide to see if I could find what it said about grace and how we might go “from grace to grace” (from enabling power to enabling power) as we are supposed to.

Grace comes through repentance and good works
And may God grant, in his great fulness,
that men might be brought unto repentance and good works,
that they might be restored unto grace for grace,
according to their works.
(Helaman 12:24)
This highlights two principles of invoking grace—repentance and good works (total effort). It also suggests to us that “grace for grace” means an exchange of some kind, receiving power in exchange for the work that we’ve done.

I’ve seen that in my life quite recently. I had to prepare a church lesson and I kept feeling stuck and powerless to teach until I realized I must have some things to repent of. Once I repented, I felt I had regained the power to teach, and I could prepare with confidence.

Humility and faith in Christ invokes grace
But he giveth more grace.
Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud,
but giveth grace unto the humble.
(James 4:6)
And if men come unto me
I will show unto them their weakness.
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble;
and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;
for if they humble themselves before me,
and have faith in me,
then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

(Ether 12:27, emphasis added)
Here we see that humility and faith in Christ are necessary for the grace of God to operate. Also, we see that weakness, rather than being a thing to lament, is actually an opportunity to access the Lord’s grace and that the Lord has designed it that way. This is why Paul actually came to glory in his weakness:
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Cor. 12:9)
Paul gloried in his weaknesses as a means of accessing the grace of Christ because he learned that his humility and faith in Christ would bring compensating strength. It’s as if he says, “Yaaay! I found another weakness so I can humble myself and receive help from Christ!” (I don’t think he goes so far as to create weaknesses, but it is evident he’s learned his weaknesses become an wonderful opportunity.)

I have learned that I often run up against personal weaknesses in the course of doing my duty. I have learned that if I go to the Lord and admit my weakness and try to summon at least a particle of faith, (even if it is as indirect as wanting the desire to do the right thing) the Lord will bless me with His grace (enabling power) to do my duty.

Grace (enabling power) from baptism
And after this manner he did baptize every one that went forth to the place of Mormon;…
yea, and they were baptized in the waters of Mormon,
and were filled with the grace of God.

(Mosiah 18:16, emphasis added)
Baptism requires faith in Christ—remember faith in Christ is a principle of grace. Baptism is unto repentance, and repentance is another of the principles of grace.

I still remember the clean feeling I felt when I was baptized at age eight.

The bestowal of grace at baptism suggests that grace is also bestowed upon us as we participate in all other ordinances of the gospel as well. Participating in saving ordinances invokes grace. Priesthood ordinances are part of the total effort of doing all we can do. Without the Melchizedek priesthood and the ordinances, the power of godliness is not manifest in the flesh. (see D&C 84:21) Pay attention to when “power” and “strength” is mentioned in the temple.

Every time I go to the temple, I leave feeling strengthened, ready to fight again the good fight of faith.

Hard work invokes grace (enabling power)
For we labor diligently to write,
to persuade our children,
and also our brethren,
to believe in Christ,
and to be reconciled to God;
for we know that it is by grace that we are saved,
after all we can do.

(2 Nephi 25:23, emphasis added)
Clearly total effort is required for grace to operate in our lives. Also notice the beginning of the verse mentions some of the ways that Nephi is doing all he can. He writes diligently, he persuades his children, he persuades his brethren. He tries to build faith in Christ. He’s anxiously engaged in this good cause.
And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support;
but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God,
that they might wax strong in the Spirit,
having the knowledge of God,
that they might teach with power and authority from God.
(Mosiah 18:26, emphasis added)
Hard honest work brings the grace of God because it satisfies the “total effort” and “after all we can do” requirement. Mosiah 27:5 notes further that those priests and teachers who did this “did abound in the grace of God.”

Pray for grace
I have come having great hopes and much desire
that I should find that ye had humbled yourselves before God,
and that ye had continued in the supplicating of his grace
(Alma 7:3, emphasis added)
Here we learn that grace is something that we can ask for in prayer. (This causes me to realize that when we pray over our food for it to “nourish and strengthen” us, we are really asking for the Lord to bless us with grace.) Sincere prayer involves several principles of grace. It takes humility to pray sincerely. It also takes faith in Christ. It can incorporate repentance. And continuing to supplicate is part of the total effort that we can give.

We say that there is power in prayer. Now we know why.

Seeking Jesus
I would commend you to seek this Jesus
of whom the prophets and apostles have written,
that the grace of God…may be and abide in you forever.
(Ether 12:41)
Seeking Jesus gives us grace because it incorporates faith in Christ, humility, and total effort on the part of the individual. Repentance is also a part of seeking Jesus.

So.. What does grace (enabling power) do that benefits us (besides the obvious)?

Grace saves us after we’ve been reconciled to God
Wherefore, my beloved brethren,
reconcile yourselves to the will of God,
and not to the will of the devil and the flesh;
and remember,
after ye are reconciled unto God,
that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
(2 Nephi 10:24)
Grace (enabling power) facilitates further efforts
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you;
that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things,
may abound to every good work:
(2 Cor. 9:8)
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you,
that you may be instructed more perfectly
in theory,
in principle,
in doctrine,
in the law of the gospel,
in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God,
that are expedient for you to understand;
(D&C 88:78, emphasis added)
To teach diligently requires total effort on the part of the teacher, a sense that one doesn’t know everything (humility), and faith that the Lord will help. The enabling power that is given to us is that we are instructed more perfectly, and often we collect so much material that we have a hard time knowing what to leave out. How many times have we heard teachers say, “There is so much here!” or “I learned so much in preparing this talk/lesson,” or “I don’t know how we’re going to get through everything that’s in here!” That is always a sign that the speaker/teacher has been given grace and has been instructed more perfectly.

Paul also wrote that good and edifying communications “may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). This would only happen if the hearers were humble and had faith in Christ’s ability to bless the teacher with the words to say that would edify them.

Grace leads to hope, which leads to serving God
Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself,
and God, even our Father,
which hath loved us,
and hath given us everlasting consolation
and good hope through grace,
(2 Thes. 2:16)
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved,
let us have grace,
whereby we may serve God acceptably
with reverence and godly fear: (Hebrews 12:28)
Grace helps us endure to the end
I am mindful of you always in my prayers,
continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus,
that he, through his infinite goodness and grace,
will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end.

(Moroni 8:3, emphasis added)
This suggests to us that receiving grace for grace helps us endure to the end. Grace (enabling power) is how we are able to continue anxiously engaged in a good cause. It is how we are able to keep pressing forward having a perfect brightness of hope and love for all men. It is how we become partakers of the divine nature.

Grace to perform miracles
6 Wherefore, we search the prophets,
and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy;
and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope,
and our faith becometh unshaken,
insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus
and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.
7 Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness
that we may know that it is by his grace,
and his great condescensions unto the children of men,
that we have power to do these things. (Jacob 4:6-7)
Grace perfects us in Christ
Yea, come unto Christ,
and be perfected in him,
and deny yourselves of all ungodliness;
and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness,
and love God with all your might, mind and strength,
then is his grace sufficient for you,
that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;
and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ,
ye can in nowise deny the power of God. (Moroni 10:32, emphasis added)
Receiving more grace from keeping the commandments leads to a celestial fulness
For if you keep my commandments
you shall receive of his fulness,
and be glorified in me as I am in the Father;
therefore, I say unto you,
you shall receive grace for grace.
(D&C 93:20)
They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn;
and they see as they are seen,
and know as they are known,
having received of his fulness and of his grace;
(D&C 76:94, emphasis added)
Inherit exaltation by grace
And Enoch beheld the Son of Man ascend up unto the Father;
and he called unto the Lord, saying:….
thou hast made me,
and given unto me a right to thy throne,
and not of myself,
but through thine own grace…

(Moses 7:59, emphasis added)
So, why do we need to learn about this?

Returning to D&C 93, which started all of this inquiry in the first place:
I give unto you these sayings
that you may understand
and know how to worship,
and know what you worship,
that you may come unto the Father in my name,
and in due time receive of his fulness.
(D&C 93:19)
We have to know what we worship in order to exercise true faith. Unless we have a correct idea of the character and attributes of Christ, we can’t do that. And unless we know how to worship and how to come to the Father in the name of Christ, we won’t have done “all we can do,” which is a necessary requirement to access divine grace.

In summary, the great principles for obtaining grace (enabling power) are:
  • Humility
  • Faith in Christ and His Atonement
  • Prayer
  • Repentance
  • Total effort/Doing all we can do/obedience
If you go back through the scriptures I’ve listed above, you’ll start to notice that many of them have one principle of grace stated, but several other principles of grace implied as well. They’ll start to jump out at you. We have to see this interrelatedness to get the full picture of what we need to do to grow in grace.

Now, knowing this, we will be able to understand better some of Paul’s words about grace.
For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God:
(Ephesians 2:8)
We see here the principle of faith attached to grace, and we assume it is faith in Jesus Christ. “Not of yourselves” also reinforces the important part that humility plays in obtaining grace. Realizing we can’t do it on our own prepares us to put our faith in Christ and what He can do for us.

This verse is often used by other Christians to justify their argument that grace has nothing to do with works. However, once you understand all the principles that invoke grace, you understand that Paul happens to be emphasizing faith and humilty because the Ephesians had had an overemphasis on works and forgotten those other equally important principles.

Some have the idea that grace is unmerited mercy given to us by God, but that is not quite right. Grace is given to us because God is merciful, but it is not the mercy itself. If it was only mercy, we could only hope to have the same sins and weaknesses forgiven over and over and over. We would have no hope of every becoming any better than what we are or of gaining power to completely eradicate our weaknesses. But God wants better things or us. This is why grace is enabling power.

Now here’s something I realized that nearly made my head explode—if there are principles by which we can obtain divine grace, then grace is a matter of divine law! (And it could even be called a law of works!)

Even more exciting, having learned these principles, we can see in scripture stories how the people accessed grace (enabling power) by putting these principles to work!
  • Nephi pleads for strength to burst his bands when his brothers have tied him up and are about to leave him in the wilderness to perish.
  • King Lamoni and his father both access divine grace as they humble themselves before God and pray in faith for forgiveness of their sins.
  • The stripling warriors, well known for their strength in battle, are strict to remember the Lord from day to day, to depend upon the Lord while they fight, and to put forth total effort.
  • The people of Alma escape from bondage as they humble themselves, put total faith in the Lord, and do all that they can do.
  • Alma the Younger calls upon God in battle and is strengthened to slay Amlici.
Here are two really good talks with insights about grace that I found enlightening in my study.

David A. Bednar, “In the Strength of the Lord”, speech given at BYU 23 Oct 2001.

Gene R. Cook, “Receiving Divine Assistance through the Grace of the Lord”, General Conference April 1993.

I can testify that the grace (enabling power) of God is real. I have accessed it through faith in Christ, repentance, saving ordinances, hard work, humility, and prayer. I know that it is grace that saves me.

Can you tell me about a time that you recognize divine grace (enabling power) was at work in your life? What was your need? How did you use grace-invoking principles? How did it help?
Monday, March 21, 2011 6 comments

Why both “salt of the earth” and “light of this people”?

Recently I was reading the Savior’s words to the Nephites and I ran across these sayings:
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
15 Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;
16 Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (3 Nephi 12:13-16)
My question upon reading this was, why did Jesus feel it necessary to give two different versions of what seems to be the same idea? They both seem to convey the idea of how the Lord’s covenant people are to be special and an example. I have heard explanations that salt on sacrifices is a symbol of the covenant, but for some reason I have a hard time grasping this association; it feels like the ideas are too far apart. (Maybe I just haven’t progressed to the point of getting it yet.)

But back to the question of why both “salt of the earth” and “light of this people” were used. What is the same between them and what is different?

I noticed that these two metaphors involved different senses—taste and vision. Being a light to the eyes is like being an example. But taste is a bit trickier. Nonmembers don’t taste us…. Or do they? I remembered a verse from Job that I had noticed a long time ago.
Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat? (Job 12:11)
I went searching for more instances in the scriptures where “taste” is used and I found three other helpful verses.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalms 119:103)

Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things? (Job 6:30)

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:6)
In a sense, words can be tasted by the ear just like salt is tasted by the tongue. There is a special flavor and savor to the godly conversation of the Saints that is refreshing. Our words can impart gospel principles and a unique perspective of the world. As Paul said to the Colossians, our speech can be with grace (which the Bible Dictionary says is “enabling power”) that can edify and motivate and even help change lives. The savor of our words is instrumental in attracting people to the gospel and in teaching it.

So it seems that Jesus meant to use the metaphors of “salt of the earth” and “light of this people” to convey the ideas that both our words and our example help the world.

I know I really savor the words of faithful Latter-day Saints. I was trying to remember a particularly memorable experience I could share of savory words someone spoke and I realized how blessed I am to associate with so many members so often. I taste that savor in general conference. I taste it in the scriptures. I taste it in well-prepared church talks and lessons. I taste it in sincere prayers. I taste it in everyday conversation that is tinged with faith. I taste it on so many of your blogs.

I think a most recent example is in our relief society lesson on charity yesterday in which our instructor mentioned that she had realized that she needed to show her husband more charity by not bringing up past mistakes he had made. We all giggled a bit at this admission of hers, but there was a special savor in hearing her thoughts about it. I know I appreciated it because it motivated me to commit to being more forgiving of my husband too.

I also can’t help but give my mother credit for her savory words. In my upbringing she exemplified “salt of the earth.”

Can you tell me of an experience you had when the savor of someone’s words helped you?
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 2 comments

84 blog posts collected as a Book of Mormon commentary

Blogging by nature is a fragmentary way of writing, which reflects the line-upon-line way that we learn, here a little, there a little. But there is also something to be said for arranging one’s accumulated knowledge into order in some way. That makes it possible to find the holes in one’s knowledge and then learn even better things. That is why I’ve decided to set my Book of Mormon blog posts into order as they would fall in the Book of Mormon. I figure it will be useful not just for me, but for you as well. It is comfortable to go in chronological order. It makes a nice little online book of commentary. For you dear readers who are late-comers to this blog, this will help catch you up some. (And if anyone is interested in me publishing this as an ebook—and I mean “interested” in the sense that you would buy it—then I will do it.) (I have already collected some of my blog posts focused on the four gospels of the New Testament, polished them up and published them as an ebook at Lulu.com titled Why Did Jesus Do That?: Probing the Puzzling Incidents and His Oddest Sayings in the Gospels, which is available for sale for $2.99.)(Yeees, this is self-promotion, but if I didn't tell you it exists, how would you know?)(Okay, I declare this post has far too many consecutive sets of parentheses and the grammar police will be kicking down my door any minute now..) So without further ado--drum roll please--we begin!

1 Nephi, 2 Nephi

Some Musing on the Availability and Prevalence of Records and Other Sacred Things

Motivation to keep sacred records: external versus internal

Varying reactions to angelic reassurance

Success from failure

Fresh Lessons from Nephi Getting the Brass Plates

Complaining in 1 Nephi

Revisiting the story of Nephi bursting his bands

When Nephi is tied up on the ship

From the Greatest Sorrow to the Arms of God’s Love: the Valleys and Peaks of Lehi’s Experience

The fundamental purpose of 1 Nephi 20 (Isaiah 48)

1 Nephi 21 (Isaiah 49) The Lord can gather Israel with both hands tied behind His back

Isaiah and Nephi testify of the future redemptive work for the dead (1 Nephi 21)

Jacob on Being Subject to Christ

What Monster Need We Fear?

Nephi Elaborates on Isaiah’s Words about the Precepts of Men

Persecution: what goes around, comes around

Remembering the ancients’ travails

Nephi’s vision of Christ’s baptism

Jacob

Have you been planted in good or bad ground?

What we can learn from Jacob’s account of Sherem the anti-Christ

Mosiah

When you haven’t heard from someone for a while

House Hunting and Zeniff’s Over-zealousness

In which I notice the dangers of Zeniff's over-zealousness and how different it is from actual zeal

King Noah’s priorities

Focus on family leads to the overthrow of King Noah

A story about escape from slavery

The four sons of Mosiah and their long tail symptoms of escaping apostasy

King Mosiah let them go

Alma

Alma 1 Comparison between fruits of priestcraft and fruits of true faithfulness; also the church’s defense against persecution

Lessons from the Amlici Threat

From Humble Poverty to Proud Prosperity: Lessons from Alma 4

Birth and Rebirth

Observations on Alma 14 and the results of Alma and Amulek’s preaching in Ammonihah

The function of the gold limnah and the silver onti in the Nephite currency system

Alma as a type of Christ in the healing of Zeerom

Ammon’s Wait

What shall I do?

Alma 19: Spiritual gifts manifested in Lamanite conversion

Ammon, Lamoni, and Lamoni’s Father: Unexpected Obstacles Can Further Missionary Work

What Natural Man Is There That Knoweth These Things?

“O That I Were an Angel!”: A Look at the Wish of Alma’s Heart

For those times when the world's wickedness pains your soul

Alma’s advice to his son Helaman reveals his own character

There has to be backstory to Captain Moroni’s meteoric rise

Beware of Anger

Lessons from the battle in Alma 43

Fine Point on Surrender, Lehonti (and Co.) and Their Aversion to War?

The covenant of peace realigned Lamanite loyalties

Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty Priorities

Why were wives and children at the bottom of Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty?

Captain Moroni's perfect understanding

Lessons from the Morianton-Lehi land war

What sacred gifts might we be refusing?

Hard Things First


Battle Strategy – Distraction & Fatigue

Captain Moroni’s righteous army


Captain Moroni’s Psychological Warfare in Alma 54


Lessons from Alma 55: changed loyalties, impulse control, causes of carelessness, and winey Lamanites

A type of Christ: Captain Moroni freeing the prisoners of the city of Gid

Helaman’s insight into helping others keep covenants

What must we do to become like the stripling warriors?

Importance of frequent provisioning

Follow the Brethren and Never Fall

Helaman on Maintaining Possessions

Book of Mormon war chapters help us defend against pornography

Helaman

Remembering and building a foundation on Christ: the message behind Nephi and Lehi's mission to the Lamanites

Lessons from the determination of Samuel the Lamanite and the range of response he received

3 Nephi

Destruction as massive object lesson, witness of change as prelude to Christ’s visitation

Care for the One

3 Nephi 18, 20: Jesus teaches different lessons through the sacrament

Pray IN your families

Unspeakable words

How be it that ye have not written this thing?

Why Christ wanted Malachi 3 in the Book of Mormon

Three Types of Scattering and the Scatter-Gather Cycle

Mormon

Forbidden to Preach


Ether

Ether 3 and the Eye of Faith

When the storms push you to your goal

Spiritual lessons from stories of poisonous serpents

Ether’s prophecies in Ether 13

Topical

Examples of Good Fatherhood in the Book of Mormon

How are we to understand the word “astonished” in the scriptures?

There’s more to covenants than meets the eye

One of the Best Scriptural Phrases for the Little Life Challenges
Saturday, March 12, 2011 3 comments

Destruction as massive object lesson, witness of change as prelude to Christ’s visitation

We like to learn to control our environment, so when things go terribly wrong, we spend a lot of effort and study trying to figure out what the root cause was so that we can prevent anything like it from ever happening again. There is a tendency to argue about root causes and contributing causes and debate about how much weight each cause should get. After the great destruction in the Nephite lands at the death of Christ, the voice of Christ tells the people exactly what happened, where, and why. Cities were destroyed because of their wickedness in rejecting and killing the prophets. Those that were left were told they had survived because they were more righteous than the others. (This negates any possibility of so-called “survivor’s guilt.”) Here the voice of Christ precludes any debate by going straight to the root cause so that there is no mistake. It has a spiritual cause, which is under their control, while preventing earthquakes, tempests, whirlwinds, tsunamis, and the like is not.

Then Jesus tells the people how often he had gathered them and nourished them. He says an interesting thing—“O ye people of the house of Israel who have fallen;…how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not” (v5, emphasis added). It is curious that Jesus speaks not only to the living, but to the disobedient dead, and that He allows the living to hear what He says to the disobedient dead. It seems that Jesus cares enough about these disobedient spirits who have just died that He takes the time to explain to them that they only have themselves to blame for their present condition because He did His best to gather them. Perhaps He allows the living to listen in because it is a sample of what the final judgment is like and it can give them extra reason to repent and prepare.

Another interesting thing is that He includes in this “ye that dwell in Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen…how oft I would have gathered you…and ye would not.” Clearly Jesus anticipates that Jerusalem will be destroyed and desolated just like the wicked Nephites cities had been, and in His mind, it is as if it has already happened because they rejected His efforts to save them. This gives a sense of impending judgment, reinforcing for the Nephite listeners the need to repent.

Then Jesus promises that He will gather oft those who repent and come to Him, and He finishes with a strong statement—“But if not, O house of Israel, the places of your dwellings shall become desolate until the time of the fulfilling of the covenant to your fathers.” (v7) This causes the multitude to weep and wail again for the loss of their kindred. Why? Jesus made all the destruction into a massive object lesson of what would happen to them if they did not repent. Their recent experience of losing their families made them feel Jesus’s words as never before. They had already experienced this desolation in mortality, and they would experience a spiritual desolation on the other side of the veil if they didn’t repent. Jesus implied a looming separation of family members from each other because of failing to repent and receive saving ordinances and celestial marriage covenants. If they were all separated from each other in spirit prison, it would be just as if their whole family was made desolate except for them. It would only be overcome (by temple work) when the covenant to Abraham that “in thy seed shall all the kindred’s of the earth be blessed” would be fulfilled.

It seems then, that the destruction among the Nephites at the crucifixion of Christ was not just a sign of that significant event, nor was it just divine justice meted out, but it was also used as a teaching tool for those who were still soft-hearted enough to listen.

After the three days, all the darkness dispersed and the destruction ceased, and the record notes “the wailing of the people who were spared alive did cease; and their mourning was turned into joy, and their lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer” (v10). I used to think that they were just happy the darkness was gone and the destruction was over. But recently, I realized that wasn’t the main cause their joy. Their joy and praise and thanksgiving was because of Jesus Christ redeeming them. They had listened to the words of the voice of Christ and obeyed the command to repent. So by the time the darkness was dispersed, they had begun to feel the joy of their redemption.

Note that the destruction and darkness happened at the very beginning of the year (see 3 Nephi 8:5), and it wasn’t until the end of the year that Christ appeared to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 10:18). Thus, when the record tells us in 3 Nephi 11:1 that the multitude at the temple was “marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place,” they were not talking about geographic change at all, as we so often suppose. (They had plenty of time during the year for that.) They were telling each other about the great and marvelous change that had occurred in their lives since they had repented. That’s the kind of change that takes some time to manifest itself. The greatness lay in the lastingness of it. (Keep in mind that all the previous chapters of 3 Nephi show plainly that they only enjoyed righteousness two short times in between long stretches of awful wickedness.) So they were speaking of how their lives had changed and conversing about Christ who had died, which sounds a lot like they were bearing testimony. And to this environment of spiritual witness and reflection, Christ came. What better time for Him to come?

And might He still come to our testimony meetings, even if we don’t see Him? Perhaps this holds a lesson—we witness of Him spiritually before we can witness Him with our eyes.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 2 comments

Why D&C 122 holds more encouragement for us than we think

In D&C 122, the Lord talks to Joseph Smith, who is imprisoned in Liberty Jail. The Lord lists a whole bunch of hypothetical tribulations that Joseph Smith might have to go through and says that these tribulations would give him experience and be for his good. Just for a review, I’m going to list them.
  1. Called to pass through tribulations
  2. Perils among false brethren
  3. Perils among robbers
  4. Perils by land or by sea
  5. Accused with all manner of false accusations
  6. Enemies fall upon thee
  7. Torn from company of parents
  8. Torn from the company of distraught wife and children
  9. Surrounded by enemies thirsting for blood
  10. Cast into the pit
  11. Cast into murderers hands and sentenced to death
  12. Weather and elements combine to hedge up the way
  13. Hell gaping to swallow thee
As I researched the history leading up to Joseph Smith’s incarceration in Liberty Jail, I found that by the time he was jailed there, HE HAD ALREADY PASSED THROUGH EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE “HYPOTHETICAL” TRIBULATIONS. (Read this Historical Background page. About halfway down, you'll find those perils listed with specific instances and dates when Joseph Smith went through them.)

But this presented me with a difficult question. If Joseph Smith had already experienced every one of those listed tribulations by the time that revelation came, then why did the Lord speak of those tribulations in a hypothetical way as if they hadn’t happened and he might be called to pass through them? Was the Lord just reminding him of what he went through?

I stewed over this for a while. It finally came to me that in that section, the Lord is actually talking more to us, the Latter-day Saints, than to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith had already gone through that experience. But we haven’t so much. So the Lord is actually speaking to us to tell us that if we are called to pass through the same tribulations that Joseph Smith had to go through, it will give us experience and be for our good. And because the Lord is actually speaking to us, that means that the blessings in verses 1-4, 9 that we insist on ascribing only to Joseph Smith, are actually to be enjoyed by us as well! Read them now, since they are addressed to you and me!
1 The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;
2 While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.
3 And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors.
4 And although their influence shall cast thee into trouble, and into bars and walls, thou shalt be had in honor; and but for a small moment and thy voice shall be more terrible in the midst of thine enemies than the fierce lion, because of thy righteousness; and thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever.…
9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (D&C 122:1-4, 9)
This is how the Lord wants to encourage us all with D&C 122. This encouragement is far greater than we have previously thought, and it is particularly precious in this world that is becoming more and more wicked.
Friday, March 4, 2011 5 comments

Remembering and building a foundation on Christ: the message behind Nephi and Lehi's mission to the Lamanites

Helaman 5:5-14 gives a number of things that Helaman taught his sons Nephi and Lehi before he died, and it is such a small sample, according to v13, that we should wonder why Mormon chose to include what he did.
5 For they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them. And these are the words which he spake:
6 Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words. Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good.
7 Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them.
8And now my sons, behold I have somewhat more to desire of you, which desire is, that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers.
9 O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.
10 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
11 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.
12 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.
13 And it came to pass that these were the words which Helaman taught to his sons; yea, he did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written.
14 And they did remember his words; and therefore they went forth, keeping the commandments of God, to teach the word of God among all the people of Nephi, beginning at the city Bountiful; (Helaman 5:5-14)
In examining these verses, the first thing I notice is repetition of the word “remember.” It is repeated 15 times in nine verses. (You might want to mark those words in your scriptures.) In some places, it is even repeated twice—“remember, remember.” This is not to bore us, but to emphasize the importance of the things attached to those “remember-remembers.” The things Helaman most wanted his sons to remember was:
• There is no other way mankind can be saved than through the atoning blood of Christ (v9)
• Building our foundation on Christ will save us and help us to endure through Satan’s storms (v12)

Something I realize recently was that after giving us these few words of Helaman, Mormon uses the rest of the chapter narrative to tell how Nephi and Lehi’s ministry exemplified enduring Satan’s storms with their sure foundation in Christ. Also, the success of their ministry came from stirring the people up to remember Christ and repent.

Remembering

Nephi and Lehi start preaching in Zarahemla among the Lamanites (who had at that time taken over much of the Nephite lands), and they confounded many dissenters who had come from the Nephites. The great power of their words reminded the dissenters of the Lord, reminded them salvation only came through Christ, and convinced them to repent and return to the Nephites to make restitution. The dissenters were reminded of the blessings that they had lost and wanted them again.

When Nephi and Lehi were in the Lamanite prison and the thick darkness surrounded the guards who intended to kill them, a dissenter, Aminadab, told the Lamanites to repent and cry to the voice until they believed in Christ “who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeerom” (Helaman 5:41). Aminadab reminded them of something they had learned long ago, and remembering was the first step to acting in faith.

In Helaman 6:3-6, the converted Lamanites went to the Nephites to preach. They declared how they were converted and exhorted them to faith and repentance. They preached with power and it helped the Nephites to remember their own conversion. It brought them to humility so they could depend upon the Lord for their salvation.

In three different cases here, remembering was the first step to reactivation in the gospel. I think this is an important principle that we can use to help reactivate members. We can help them remember what they were once taught. And we can share our own conversion stories with them.

Foundation in Christ

Nephi and Lehi also went through a very tough trial. While they were preaching, they were taken by an army and cast into prison. They were left there many days without food. As their bodies became weaker and weaker day by day, they would have had to contend with thoughts from the adversary that this predicament was directly caused by their preaching. They would have to remember to trust Christ that they had been doing the right thing. They would have to trust that they would still be supported and delivered from their afflictions, whether by miraculous means or by death. Their predicament was certainly one that could have dragged them “down to the gulf of misery and endless wo” (v12) if they didn’t have that foundation on Christ and remember.

Then too, even as the pillar of fire protected them from being immediately taken and executed by the Lamanites, there was also the severe earthquake and cloud of darkness that could be a cause for fear, as it was for the Lamanites. But they evidently called upon God in their extremity and were made visible examples of trust in God, as their faces shone in the midst of darkness as they prayed.

Remember to make Christ your foundation!
Thursday, March 3, 2011 3 comments

A dire prophecy fulfilled

While Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, the saints were driven from Missouri under harsh conditions. We talk a lot about the three revelations—D&C 121,122, and 123—that Joseph Smith received, in particular about how they comfort us in our afflictions. One thing that we don’t hear much about at all is the prophecy in D&C 121 about the Lord’s judgments upon the saints’ persecutors. It has very strong statements in it:
11 And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun;
12 And also that God hath set his hand and seal to change the times and seasons, and to blind their minds, that they may not understand his marvelous workings; that he may prove them also and take them in their own craftiness;
13 Also because their hearts are corrupted, and the things which they are willing to bring upon others, and love to have others suffer, may come upon themselves to the very uttermost;
14 That they may be disappointed also, and their hopes may be cut off;
15 And not many years hence, that they and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall.
16 Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.
17 But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves.
18 And those who swear falsely against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage and death—
19 Wo unto them; because they have offended my little ones they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house.
20 Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them.
21 They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation.
22 It had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea.
23 Wo unto all those that discomfort my people, and drive, and murder, and testify against them, saith the Lord of Hosts; a generation of vipers shall not escape the damnation of hell.
24 Behold, mine eyes see and know all their works, and I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof, for them all;
25 For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be. (D&C 121:11-25)
Every time I ran across these verses in my reading, I would wonder how they were fulfilled. So I did some research.
While the Prophet Joseph Smith was being held in Liberty Jail, a man offered the Prophet’s lawyer, Alexander Doniphan, a tract of land in Jackson County in payment of a debt. When the man left, the Prophet told Mr. Doniphan:

“I advise you not to take Jackson county land in payment of the debt. God’s wrath hangs over Jackson county. God’s people have been ruthlessly driven from it, and you will live to see the day when it will be visited by fire and sword. The Lord of Hosts will sweep it with the besom of destruction. The fields and farms and houses will be destroyed, and only the chimneys will be left to mark the desolation” (in B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:538).

Alexander Doniphan later remarked that he was reminded of this prophecy when Jackson County was devastated during the Civil War. (Doctrine & Covenants Seminary Teacher’s Manual)
Because the saints’ grievances were not redressed, those in Missouri who perpetrated the persecution were not brought to justice. Because they were not brought to justice, mobbing, plunder, persecution, and murder continued to be the favorite method of solving conflict. They resorted to intimidation and mobbing to try to influence elections in Kansas, which brought about the bleeding Kansas war just before the Civil war. (Find out about what happened during Bleeding Kansas and you'll see that was just business as usual for Missouri.) They resorted to mobbing and plunder during the Civil war in guerrilla groups, ostensibly for the Confederacy, but under no military control. Remember the Haun’s Mill massacre? It led to worse. A number of guerrilla bands combined together in 1863 to attack a town called Lawrence in Kansas and they killed 134 men and wounded at least 20 others. In response to that, Union General Ewing issued Order No 11, which commanded that residents of four western Missouri counties (one of which was Jackson county) leave their homes and the area, unless they could prove their loyalty to the Union. Even those who could prove loyalty had to move near military outposts. As the Missourians left those counties, the Union troops burned, looted, destroyed property and murdered men at will, against orders, taking revenge, in their view, for all the destruction the guerrillas had caused. The four counties became a devastated "no-man's-land", with only charred chimneys and burnt stubble showing where homes and thriving communities had once stood.

In this way the prophecy was fulfilled that the things which the Missourians were willing to bring upon others would come upon them to the very uttermost. Their houses and barns indeed perished. Joseph Smith’s prophecy to Alexander Doniphan was also fulfilled.

To read more about the circumstances of Order No. 11, you can read
“General Order No. 11 (1863),” Wikipedia
"Order No. 11 and the Civil War on the Border," Albert Castel
Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States during the Civil War, wrote:

“Whereas when our own beloved country, once, by the blessing of God, united, prosperous, and happy, is now afflicted with faction and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before him and to pray for his mercy—to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most justly deserved” (“Proclamation of a National Fast Day, Aug. 12, 1861,” in The Speeches of Abraham Lincoln [1908], 339–40, as quoted by Doctrine & Covenants Seminary Teacher’s Manual).
Other parts of Joseph Smith’s prophecy were fulfilled as well, through the instrumentality of Missouri’s financial affairs. The book Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865 by Mark W. Geiger is a highly insightful account of how financial fraud contributed to the extraordinary levels of guerrilla violence in Missouri during and after the Civil War and led to Missouri acquiring the reputation of being “the robber state.” The downfall of Missouri’s planter elite is clearly described. The following is my summary of what his book describes.

Right around 1857, the Missouri legislature decided to revamp their banking laws to make it easier to get credit and do business and trade. (At that time, each bank had its own currency it could only be used in the region near that bank. So a traveler who wanted to do business in a faraway place, had to exchange currencies multiple times on their journey and each time, they had to pay a fee for it.)

The Missouri legislature made some very good banking laws that required the banks to have a lot of specie reserves and have a lot of investment before they could do business. This made them very stable. However, Missouri lawmakers also wanted to protect slavery, so they deliberately prevented any but pro-slavery people from starting a bank. Savings banks existed, but they were very small and only the pro-slavery state banks could print currency. (Through the rest of this summary, all mention of banks refer to state banks.)

At the very beginning of the Civil War, when states were deciding to secede from the Union, Missouri’s elite slave-holders wanted to secede. But a majority of the voters in the state voted NOT to secede. The governor tried to arrange secretly for the state government to borrow money to buy weapons so they could join and fight for the Confederacy, but the legislature opposed it when the plan was made public. So, all the pro-slavery and Confederate sympathizers who ran Missouri’s banks began to make lots of short-term loans to their families and extended families and friends using bank money so that they could buy weapons and ammunition. The pro-slavery bankers were also worried that the United States government would take over the Missouri banks and take away all the money, so they thought making lots of loans would be a way to prevent that and keep the money out of Union reach. They also thought that the war would be very short and the confederate side would win. Also, the Confederacy promised to help pay back any loans if the people couldn’t repay it themselves. They borrowed lots of the bank money themselves and they cosigned loans for others to borrow lots of money too. This was all VERY DISHONEST. Most of these loans were made in the spring and summer of 1861. They were scheduled to be repaid at the end of the year.

By the end of 1861, though, many of those loans were not repaid. Also, the banks had loaned so much money away that they were broke. The banks were also in debt to each other and couldn’t repay each other. There was no government bailout and the confederate government couldn’t help.

By late 1862, Union forces were able to get rid of most of the pro-slavery bankers and replace them with Union-sympathizing bankers. The only way the new Union bankers could fix the banks was by collecting on all the bad debts by taking to court all the people who had borrowed money and hadn’t repaid. So they did.

The debt collection efforts took years, but it also set off a chain reaction of bankruptcies. Each loan had a number of people who cosigned it and who were all liable for repaying any shortfall. Those debtors often took out multiple loans. And there was no orderly way to prioritize who would get repaid first, so if one person was taken to court over a debt, then all his other creditors would file suit too to try to keep from being the last one repaid with nothing. Then all the people (family and friends) who cosigned the loan with them had to go to court too, and all the other creditors of those people would file suit against them and it would spread from family to family to family like wildfire.

These Confederate debtors got no sympathy in the Missouri courts, since the Union had also gotten rid of Confederate judges and appointed Union judges. Union forces had implemented a loyalty oath for government office and only people who had taken a loyalty oath to the Union could vote, so Confederate sympathizers were effectively disenfranchised. The press was also censored. And no legislative bills for debt relief were passed. The banks gradually collected on the debts by seizing debtors’ property and selling it, and when it was all over, most of the defendants had no property left. (123 lawsuits of this kind occurred in Jackson County.)

History has noted that guerrilla warfare was worse in Missouri than any other Confederate state, but it so happens that there is just enough evidence to suggest that a number of young men who came from indebted elite families became guerrillas out of bitterness at their loss and lack of prospects and out of desire to avenge their families.

Also, in comparing between different Confederate states, it was found that those wealthy citizens of Missouri were much more downwardly mobile (i.e. they lost social status) than wealthy citizens in other Confederate states. In other states, the plantation system survived the war, but in Missouri, the large properties were sold off and bought up by immigrants from other states because so few Missourians had extra money.

The above is my less-nuanced summary of some of the main points in Geiger’s book. In reading it, it became perfectly obvious to me that this was also fulfillment of Joseph Smith’s prophecy. The elite Missourians were blinded. They were taken in their own financial craftiness when the times and seasons and reins of power shifted. Then their hopes were blasted, their prospects melted away (as they lost their property), they were disappointed, they were despised by those who used to flatter them (they sunk to lower levels of society and were no longer admired as elites and leaders or they left).

I am not sharing this information with the intent of raising feelings of schadenfreude, but rather to show that the word of the Lord to Joseph Smith was fulfilled in this instance just as it was in the better-known instance of his Civil War prophecy.