Saturday, January 30, 2016 3 comments

Revelation 10: The Angel Standing on Sea and Land

1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:
2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,
3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.
5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:
7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets. (Revelation 10:1-7)

One of the odd bits of imagery in this chapter is the glorious angel who sets his right food on the sea and his left foot on the land. This angel holds the little book that John ends up taking and eating.

The detail about the angel standing one food on sea and one on land is repeated three times, in verses 2, 5, and 8, which is a little clue that it holds meaning that must be understood.

I had previously thought that the angel standing on both the sea and the land represented the sovereignty of God over the whole earth (and many other commentators think similarly), but this time that interpretation didn’t quite satisfy me.  Why should God’s sovereignty be represented by an angel standing on sea and land holding a book and not an angel sitting on a throne?  There has to be something different going on here.

So what does it mean when an angel has one foot in the sea and the other on land and he holds a book? It seems like he stands right on a transition point between sea and land, a point of change.  (In real life, the transition point between sea and land is a bit indefinite because of tides and wave action and so forth, but in John’s vision, the transition point is so stationary that the angel can straddle it like a line.)

So I think we are to ponder what makes the difference between one condition represented by the sea and another condition represented by the dry land.  How are they different? Sea is fluid and fluctuating and unstable.  Land is solid and permanent and stable.  So perhaps the sea symbolizes chaos and disorder, while land represents order and firmness and security. 

Perhaps the angel standing between sea and land represents a point of change between chaos and order, between instability and steadfastness.  The book he holds in his hand is held right over the dividing line, representing the thing that makes the bridge between the two. The book is the thing that will allow people to escape the chaos and come to order and certainty and security in their lives, which, based on the events of the previous chapter, have devolved into awful anarchy, insecurity, and warlord-ism.

What is this book?  It is eaten by John, and it is essentially his witness and testimony to the world about the gospel.  So the witness and testimony is the thing that can help move individuals and peoples from chaos and anarchy into order and a firm foundation to stand on. That will take faith for people to accept in a time of chaos, but this is shown us so that we can know it is true.

I also think this is an important principle for our lives today. If we feel our lives falling into chaos, we can take a look at how well we are living according to our testimony of the truth. If we can live by our testimony, we will find firm ground and a firm foundation in Christ. Then we’ll be better able to sort out the chaos and impose order in our lives. We'll be able to live with certainty even in the middle of upheaval.

Let’s move on to what else happens in this block of verses.  In v3-4, the angel who straddles the transition point between sea and land cries with a loud voice, and seven thunders utter their voices, and the things said are forbidden that John should write them.

This leads to the question, what did they say?  And further, why go to the trouble of telling us this happened if we are not to be told with the angel and thunders said?

There’s a very simple answer, one that will sound like a cop-out at first, but it is true and there is something we can learn from it that will actually give us hope.  Answer: Those things are MYSTERIES.  We are not told what they are in this vision in order to emphasize their mysterious nature. It even tells us in v7 “the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”

Further, we are to know that the things not told us here are mysteries of God. We can know they are of God because they are spoken by an angel and seven thunders. (Thunders are also from heaven, and might be symbolic of heavenly voices of authority, possibly general authorities). 

However, even though the things said are mysteries to us now, we can find hope in the implication that ultimately these mysteries will be made manifest in their time, as is represented by the fact that the angel cries with a loud voice and the seven thunders… well,, they thunder, and thunder is pretty noisy and public. Of course, the thing about mysteries of God is that no matter how public they happen to become, only the spiritually prepared understand them and obey their instructions. 

I think it also has to be mentioned that this stuff with the angel and the thunders is in direct contrast to the chaos happening at the same time among the wicked, as shown in Revelation 9 in the latter half.  This all happens after the sixth angel sounds his trumpet within the seventh seal. I think this is showing us that even though the righteous are greatly afflicted by the wickedness in the world, they will have compensatory blessings of great revelations from heaven to help them through their difficulties, revelations so great they were not to be written by John at that time. This gives us much to look forward to and prepare for.

Moving on.

In verse 5-7, the angel swears there will be time no longer and when the seventh angel sounds the mystery of God as declared by the prophets will be finished.  Now, for the longest time I thought that oath about there being time no longer meant that all measurement of time was to be done away with and eternity was to begin at that point.  However, this time I realized it was more likely an announcement about the probationary period before the second coming--that the end was getting very close and there was hardly any time left for the wicked to repent.  To use a vastly inadequate analogy, it reminds me of the five minute warning my mom gave before the TV had to go off.  But unlike that five minute warning, this is a message of extreme urgency with each individual's prospects in eternity at stake. Everyone has to repent because the day of grace is coming very quickly to an end.

It so happens that the terms by which the angel swears also encapsulate reasons and justification for the oath.  The angel swears by God who lives for ever and ever, and by God who created everything in earth, sea, and heaven.  To swear by God as one who lives forever should remind us He has an eternal perspective, and He can see when evil is ripe for destruction. So when He says time is almost up, He means it. To swear by God as the creator of all should remind us He also has the ability to destroy what He created. So when time is up, the wicked will be destroyed, and He has full power to do that.

This is all good news for the righteous because it means vindication and reward quickly approaches too.

There are times when I kind of wish I could redo the chapter breaks in Revelation to better group the things that happen together. I would put the contents of Revelation 10 right on the back of Revelation 9 to make it clearer that 10 is not an unrelated interlude, but is happening concurrently with the madness at the end of 9.  I think we are meant to see a contrast between what happens among the wicked versus what happens among the righteous all the way up to the second coming.  It truly will be “the best of times and the worst of times,” to borrow words from Dickens.

Thursday, January 28, 2016 0 comments

What does a culture say about sin?

I ran across this interesting bit from Hugh Nibley that I thought was worth sharing.
Incidentally, it is an interesting thing that repentance is missing from all the ancient religions except the Old Testament. The word repentance doesn’t exist for the Egyptians and the others. I have been reading a lot of Egyptian wisdom literature, and the idea that you should repent [doesn’t exist there]. What you want is luck. They never connected what you have done in the past with your moral behavior. You’ve done what you’ve done, and that’s that. It’s an interesting thing that there is no word in Egyptian for sin.  And in America today sin is having the wrong ideology. It’s being on the wrong side. The Ten Commandments are only fifty percent binding. They bind us but they don’t control our behavior toward bad people. We shall not kill, we shall not lie, we shall not steal from good people. But you can do it with bad people all you want [according to this philosophy]. And they do it everywhere else. We call that revenge because they have been bad. (“Teachings of the Book of Mormon,” semester 2, lecture 52, Alma 19-22,
Really, as a social commentator, Hugh Nibley was excellent.  To distill so many impressions of practical American morality (or lack thereof) at into such a succinct summation is incredibly perceptive.  

Once you know where your culture’s blind-spots are, you can repent and rise above it.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016 0 comments

Unconquerable spirit, or not?

31 And it came to pass that before the Lamanites had retreated far they were surrounded by the Nephites, by the men of Moroni on one hand, and the men of Lehi on the other, all of whom were fresh and full of strength; but the Lamanites were wearied because of their long march.
32 And Moroni commanded his men that they should fall upon them until they had given up their weapons of war.
33 And it came to pass that Jacob, being their leader, being also a Zoramite, and having an unconquerable spirit, he led the Lamanites forth to battle with exceeding fury against Moroni.
34 Moroni being in their course of march, therefore Jacob was determined to slay them and cut his way through to the city of Mulek. But behold, Moroni and his men were more powerful; therefore they did not give way before the Lamanites.
35 And it came to pass that they fought on both hands with exceeding fury; and there were many slain on both sides; yea, and Moroni was wounded and Jacob was killed.
36 And Lehi pressed upon their rear with such fury with his strong men, that the Lamanites in the rear delivered up their weapons of war; and the remainder of them, being much confused, knew not whither to go or to strike.
37 Now Moroni seeing their confusion, he said unto them: If ye will bring forth your weapons of war and deliver them up, behold we will forbear shedding your blood. (Alma 52:31-37)

In these verses, something that sticks out to me is the description of Jacob the Zoramite leader, who is characterized as having an “unconquerable spirit” (v33). It sounds pretty admirable, and its surprising praise to an enemy, but I wonder if it was really meant that way. “Unconquerable spirit” certainly sounds a lot better than “everlastingly stubborn and mulish.”

Also, consider that if “unconquerable spirit” had been applied to one of the good Nephite leaders, we would not hesitate to quote the verse and moralize on it, much as we do about Captain Moroni and “if all men ever were and ever would be like unto Moroni…”  But “unconquerable spirit” is applied to a dangerous enemy, so we are reluctant to say much about it, even if we might admire it a little as we read across it.

So, I want to take some time to look at this “unconquerable spirit” and its effects and deconstruct it a bit.

First question – Was Jacob the Zoramite really unconquerable? 

The answer is no. He got himself killed in this battle. Maybe his spirit was unconquerable, but his body certainly wasn’t. His body was vulnerable. And it was even more vulnerable because of his and his army’s long march chasing after Teancum.

Jacob the Zoramite seems to have had the idea that disengaging from battle was the same as defeat, and in that I think he was short-sighted. And I think that made him a not-so-good leader as well because not only would he put himself at risk for the sake of defying opponents and all serious danger, but he forced his army to do the same. Captain Moroni began the battle by telling his men to “fall upon them until they had given up their weapons of war” (v32), but if Jacob had an unconquerable spirit, he would never give up his weapons while he still lived, nor would he allow his men to give up their weapons as well. They would have to fight to their demise, or at least until Jacob’s demise. Which is essentially what happened. Thus, many were slain on both sides, probably many more than would have otherwise died if Jacob had been more practically-minded. I think we can say that those extra deaths were Jacob’s responsibility.

Another question – How do you face and stand up to an unconquerable spirit? What does it take?

We get two answers. 1) You have to be “fresh and full of strength” (v31) and 2) be more powerful and not give way before the enemy (v34). You have to have just as unconquerable a spirit (without being fool-hardy) and not give way and be stronger and fresher.

Now we come to the point where I try to make an application to our lives.

What enemies might we have who have unconquerable spirits? The biggest one I can think of is Satan. His hatred and fury and malice are eternal. But he doesn’t have a body, and we do. Because we have bodies we are one up stronger, but only as long as we resist him. We can’t give way at all.

The second thing we learn is the importance of retaining reserves of strength. Moroni’s army had a major advantage because they kept fresh and strong.

So, we need to look for good ways to retain strength and renew it. One way is to focus on our priorities. Distractions sap our strength for the real battles. Another way is to find wholesome ways to renew strength. Going to the temple, taking the sacrament, doing service, praying for strength, getting good sleep and good nutrition, getting good exercise, and wholesome recreational activities (rather than deadening activities) can all do that. Sometimes our spiritual strength must be renewed. Other times our physical and mental strength needs renewing. Sometimes renewal doesn’t require work stoppage, but a change of work type or focus, a little variety.

The major thing that was wrong with Jacob’s unconquerable spirit was that he was on the wrong side. Ultimately, we must align ourselves with Christ, for someday every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. And Christ can heal our defeats and give us power to stand against Satan and resist him to the end.

Today let’s be quick to submit to God and stand more powerfully against Satan. Let’s refuse to give way and be strong against temptation.
Sunday, January 24, 2016 0 comments

Nothing to hinder prosperity but transgression

Once the Nephites had dealt with the threat from the Gadianton robbers, there is an indication that they had major societal reforms.

4 And they began again to prosper and to wax great; and the twenty and sixth and seventh years passed away, and there was great order in the land; and they had formed their laws according to equity and justice.
5 And now there was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression. (3 Nephi 6:4-5)

I really wish I knew in what ways they had great order in the land. Did they organize the use of natural resources so there wasn’t any fights over that? Did they make sure everyone knew the laws so everyone had realistic expectations of their rights and privileges so no one infringed on others?  Did they have societal goals and go about to meet them in an orderly manner?  Did people act orderly without pushing through lines or getting in fights? Did families form properly and in the right way?

It’s hard to know exactly what “great order” means, but at the same time it is broad enough to encompass a bunch of different types of orderliness at every level of society. I guess it can encourage us to try to imagine what great order looks like on a family level, on a community level, on a church level, on an employment level, on an industry level, on a regional, state, and national level.  It also encourages us to imagine what laws on each of those levels helped create that order.

The other impressive thing it says is that nothing could stop them from prospering continually except their own transgression.    Sigh. That’s always the rub, isn’t it? Humanity is astonishingly skillful at self-sabotage. When things get too easy, we tend to forget our blessings, forget to be diligent, forget the Lord, and look for shortcuts. Then we fall and land ourselves in trouble again.

Because of the great order in society, it bred a condition in which there were many merchants, lawyers, and officers in the land. (3 Nephi 6:11)  The prosperity meant there was plenty of surplus with which to buy things, so supply multiplied to meet the demand. Hence the many merchants.  There were still disputes, but solving it in an orderly way meant an increase in demand for advocates and experts in law. Hence the many lawyers.  And keeping order tends to require checkpoints, gate-keeping, bureaucracy, lines, waiting, etc., which helps people know what to expect and when and how, but that would require a great number of officers to oversee. Which is helpful, but progress can seem too slow with all that, and the human mind will then begin to fantasize about breaking the order to get what one wants faster and easier.

My conclusion is that it takes good, patient people to maintain that order over a long time.  It’s also lovely that we have Mormon’s assessment that with just and equitable laws it is only transgression that hinders us from prospering.

Friday, January 22, 2016 4 comments

Jesus’s warning to those who don’t repent

In 3 Nephi there are repeated sections when Jesus warns the future Gentiles that they must repent or face calamity:

11 Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.
12 And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
13 Their hand shall be lifted up upon their adversaries, and all their enemies shall be cut off.
14 Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;
15 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;
16 And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers;
17 Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;
18 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.
19 And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, shall be done away.
20 For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel;
21 And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
22 But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance; (3 Nephi 21:11-22)

This block of verses is peculiar because they seem so violent or seem to promise violence against those who do not repent and believe in Christ.  I’ve puzzled over these verses for years, and my opinion continues to evolve about what they mean.

Recently I was reading them and a key thing I noticed in them is the repeated phrase “cut off.”  (I have marked the repetitions of this phrase.)

Who will be cut off?
--whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles
--Adversaries and enemies
--Horses and chariots
--Cities and strongholds
--Witchcrafts and soothsayers
--graven images and standing images
--Those who will not repent and come unto Christ

It is also implied that the same cutting off will be done to “groves,” which were usually a term used to refer to places of immoral fertility rites.

What does it mean to be cut off?

When something is cut off, it is separated from a unified whole.  When people are cut off from the Lord’s people, it means they are excommunicated.

You can’t cut off someone who wasn’t a member in the first place, so this section is not directed to nonmember Gentiles, but to members of the Latter-day church of Christ.

The list of those who will be cut off is sometimes very clear and other times vague, so it makes sense to examine closer each of those characteristics or things that will be cut off to see what we can learn.

The Lord will cut off “whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him [Joseph Smith] to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles” (v11) – This could be interpreted to mean those who do not believe the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine & Covenants.  But there is no specific hunt for these people. Rather, they betray themselves through their public unbelief and efforts to lead others not to believe either. Eventually their case comes to the attention of priesthood leaders and they have to be dealt with.

Adversaries and enemies shall be cut off (v13). This sounds like anti-Mormons inside the church and members who fight the church over specific issues.  Again, they betray themselves and have to be dealt with eventually.

Horses and chariots shall be cut off out of the midst of Israel (v14). Horses and chariots are implements of war, but as the saying goes, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Objects don’t get excommunicated, but the people who use them do.  Here we have to tread carefully because there are faithful Saints in the military, so this can’t be a blanket condemnation of the military. But perhaps there are people whose default problem-solving method is force and violence, and it is so much a part of who they are that they refuse to change. These are abusive and oppressive types. They are certainly in danger of being cut off if they do not repent.

Cities and strongholds will be cut off (v15). Cities evoke the idea of a large group of people who are very closely associated with each other. I think this tells us that even those who are part of a large group inside the church that are fighting the church are not immune from the danger of apostasy and subsequent excommunication. Even if a whole ward or a stake was to apostatize and set themselves against the brethren, they can still be cut off.  I haven’t heard of a case where this happened, but this tells us it is certainly possible.

Witchcrafts and soothsayers will be cut off out of the land (v16). Here we have false prophets and those who seemingly bewitch others with counterfeit gospels and mysteries. Sooner or later they will be known by their fruits, which will not be good, and if they don’t repent, they will be removed.

Graven images will be cut off (v17).  This is another case where the thing is standing in for the person who made it and/or worships it. Modern idolatry is all about messed up priorities.  Whenever someone puts something at a higher priority than God, it will sooner or later lead them to sin, and if they don’t repent of it, they will remove themselves or be removed from the church.

Groves will be plucked up out of the cities (v18). I’ve already explained what groves mean.  Here the groves are another thing standing in for the person in question, someone who has committed immoral acts.  Those who don’t repent of their immorality and abominations will be cut off.

A list of other sins shall be done away – lying, deceiving, envying, strifes, priestcrafts, and whoredoms (v19).  Saying that the sins shall be done away I think emphasizes that the sins can be removed and the people purified, which is what we all hope for, rather than for the penalty of excommunication being imposed.

“whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel” (v20) – In the end, it doesn’t matter much what sin causes the problem. If someone isn’t willing to repent of it and come to Christ, that will lead to them being cut off.  The thing is, when one is faced with this, it will feel simultaneously as though the sin in question is no big deal and not worth the attention of a discipline hearing, but also it will feel like that sin is a major part of the person’s character, such that giving it up will feel like a betrayal of who one is.  (Interesting how such contrasting feelings combine to discourage from repentance. I’ll give you three guesses as to who would promote those feelings.)  The truth is the opposite – it is worth having leaders look into it, and giving it up is an affirmation of one’s identity as a child of God, and one is better without that sin.

So why is it important for us to know about this?

Again, we should tune into the fact that a person can’t be cut off from the covenant people of Israel unless they were once a part of them in the first place.  The warning isn’t to outsiders, but to church members.  It is a warning from Christ Himself that He will not suffer the members to go on indefinitely in their sin just because they belong to the church.  Complacent members are liable to think that the acceptance and welcoming tolerance of church leaders gives one a free pass to sin as one likes and still enjoy full fellowship. It is true that any person is always welcome, but membership and full fellowship in the church has its conditions, which Christ sets, which include repenting of one’s sins.

Christ’s words affirm this watch-care will be part of the Latter-day church of Christ.  I for one am grateful for it, since being called on the carpet at one point by a priesthood leader once saved me from dwindling towards apostasy.  I had to make a choice to humble myself, and the Spirit fought with me until I realized my errors and repented.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 0 comments

3 Nephi 17: Jesus is troubled and what came of it

11 And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought.
12 So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.
13 And it came to pass that when they had all been brought, and Jesus stood in the midst, he commanded the multitude that they should kneel down upon the ground.
14 And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.
15 And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.
16 And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;
17 And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.
18 And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.
19 And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. (3 Nephi 17:11-20, emphasis added)

When Jesus says he is troubled, it is a little difficult to know what He was bothered by. For a long time I thought it was a generalized statement about being disturbed about the house of Israel.

But gradually I came to the conclusion that He must have been bothered about something specific He saw happening among the people in front of Him at that time as they brought their children forward. 

I think we have this idealized vision of how it happened with people all moving quietly and reverently, with children acting perfectly, but it probably wasn’t like that at all.  It may have been a mass of confusion, with pushing, and irritation, and children rollicking all over or freaking out over being separated from their parents and then being shushed fiercely and crying, with children bugging each other, and so on.  It is even possible there was some verbal or physical abuse in the process of getting those children situated.  This would certainly be disturbing to Jesus. 

I notice though, that His response after noting their wickedness was to have everyone kneel down and to pray for them.  And once that is accomplished, the tone and mood of the gathering has totally reversed because the multitude was overcome with joy, and Jesus said His joy was full.

I think what He did is a good pattern for us. If we are troubled by someone’s wickedness, we can pray for them too, and that can help us overcome feelings of sadness and grievance. It is a way we can use our agency on behalf of an offender.

How might the multitude have felt to know that Jesus considered their actions wicked? It would have been rather a shock. It would call for soul-searching. But then to hear Him pray for them really must have been heartening and encouraged them to repent. Then they would have been able to feel the same joy Jesus felt. Perhaps this is why Jesus told them afterward that they were blessed because of their faith. Rather than take offense to His assessment of their spiritual condition, they softened and repented.

Monday, January 18, 2016 0 comments

The lesser and greater things Jesus ministered

6 And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;
7 But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people.
8 And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
9 And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.
10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.
11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. (3 Nephi 26:6-11)

This is one of those bits that intrigues us. We wonder what greater things we might be given of the things Jesus ministered to the Nephites.  We might think that we haven’t yet gotten the greater things.

Recently when reading this I just realized that the Doctrine & Covenants pretty well qualifies as “greater things,” in comparison to the words of Christ given in the Book of Mormon.

And it is as Jesus says – if people don’t believe the Book of Mormon and the words of Christ in it that were revealed through the prophet Joseph Smith, they certainly aren’t going to believe the Doctrine & Covenants, which is, the biggest part of it, the words of Christ, also revealed through Joseph Smith.

The D&C teaches foundational principles of the gospel but then also gives so many mysteries of God (degrees of glory, vicarious ordinance work, eternal marriage, priesthood organization, etc.) and expounds many things, so how different would that be from what the Lord would teach the Nephites?  He gave them the Beatitudes like He gave the Jews, so why not also the equivalent of the contents of the D&C as well? 

This is not to say that more beyond that can’t be given, but I think we can say with some surety that the Book of Mormon does test and try the people as to whether they have the faith to receive the D&C and more words of Christ.  Furthermore, our faith also determines whether we act as though "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" and receive the words of the church leaders in conferences.

Friday, January 15, 2016 0 comments

Jesus cast his eyes round about

After Jesus delivers the Beatitudes to the Nephites there’s this interesting verse in which I noticed a little detail that I hadn’t thought about before.

And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and said unto them: Behold, ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day. (3 Nephi 15:1)

I thought it was a little odd that it would record that Jesus cast his eyes round about on the multitude.  I thought, wouldn’t He be looking at everybody anyway while He was talking to them? So why record this right here?

In thinking about it more, I realized that the way Jesus did it, or the length of time that He did it must have really made an impression on people, such that it became a memorable thing. I’m sure you’ve probably been in church and had the experience that the speaker was looking at you and it seemed like he or she was talking to you.  I suspect Jesus did that same thing here, but He wasn’t talking, just looking from face to face, seeing each person individually, connecting with each person with His eyes. I’m sure if I had been there, I would have felt that He really saw me.  It would make His next words also feel really personal.

What does He say?

Behold, ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day.

So it’s almost as though He was reminding everybody of what they’d heard and promising each individual they could be raised up if they remembered and did those things.  

This shows me that Christ is profoundly aware of and cares for each individual.  I imagine that when Christ comes again He will continue to do this, to see us and connect with us so that we can know He cares about us. 

I also think this gives us an example to follow when giving talks or lessons, to look people in the face and meet people’s eyes and speak to them one by one instead of hiding in the lesson manual or the notes or in the scriptures. It can help us connect with our listeners better.