Thursday, July 9, 2009

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


…the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
4 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness. (1 Nephi 3:2-4)
When I read about Nephi going to get the brass plates, I sometimes wonder about the availability of sacred records in Jerusalem at that time. I wonder, were there any other metal copies? Or did Nephi get the master version of the records that everything else was copied from onto papyrus or leather scrolls? Or was the people’s wickedness so great that there was absolutely no appreciation for sacred records--metal or flexible--and the plates weren’t missed?

But I think it says a lot about Jerusalem society that Laban (the record keeper) was such a robber and a murderer at heart. Obviously he wasn’t getting any spiritual benefit from the records, even though he had locked them safely in his treasury. Perhaps he only saw them as a means of increasing his worldly status. That might explain why he reacted so violently to requests for them; giving up the plates may have been tantamount to giving up his important place in the Jerusalem class system with all the coveted privileges that went with the office of record keeper, such as hobnobbing with the city elders (in drunken parties after dark).

What kind of society is it when something so spiritually important (like the scriptures) which is supposed to be widely available to everyone is locked away, and all legitimate means of access are blocked with the threat of murder and only extraordinary measures can free it? (It's a society that is so corrupted that every bit of the word of God has become a "hot button topic" and a recital of any part of the law will offend hearers galore, so in order to prevent any reminder of uncomfortable righteousness, they hide away the scriptures and shout down/mock/silence the prophets.)

The fate (*cough* death *cough*) of Laban could have been what Alma had in mind when he gave his son Helaman charge of the records and warned him to always pray about what he should do with them.
14 And now remember, my son, that God has entrusted you with these things, which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.
15 And now behold, I tell you by the spirit of prophecy, that if ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken away from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind.
16 But if ye keep the commandments of God, and do with these things which are sacred according to that which the Lord doth command you, (for you must appeal unto the Lord for all things whatsoever ye must do with them) behold, no power of earth or hell can take them from you, for God is powerful to the fulfilling of all his words. (Alma 37:14-16)
I’m very thankful that Heavenly Father has blessed us with so much technology to make the truth so freely and easily available. The printing press made it easy to make duplicate copies of text. It is a privilege to have my very own copy of the scriptures. The scriptures can be bought for so little money today, which is something that former generations of Saints could have probably only dreamed of. It’s also wonderful that we can read messages from the prophets monthly in a magazine and listen to the prophets over radio, satellite, cable TV, and the internet. The internet is also an enormous blessing. It’s overwhelming how much is available and how many insights about the gospel can be shared through it.

It also has occurred to me that we, like Alma and Helaman, have been entrusted with sacred things, and as freely available as those sacred things are, we must still “appeal unto the Lord for all things whatsoever [we] must do with them”. I believe that Alma’s warning and promise still stands today. If we transgress the commandments of God, the sacred things will be taken from us and we will be delivered up to Satan, but if we keep the commandments, no power of earth or hell can take those sacred things from us.

What are some sacred things that you have been entrusted with and how do you try to keep them safe? How do you know when to share them?

Image: Book of Mormon Online Weblog, http://bookofmormononline.net/blog/for-a-wise-purpose/