As I come to the conclusion of my semester in the Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon class, I am struck by a scripture that we discussed in class. I remember this scripture from my high school seminary days; it is a scripture mastery. The scripture is Helaman 5:12. It reads:
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.
I am struck by this scripture in many ways. Simply reading through it, the verse contains a very detailed description of the power of Satan. Yet, simply by volume there are more words about the power of Christ than the power of the advesary. Christ is more powerful than the advesary, and if we build our foundation upon Christ we cannot fall. Christ is an unshakeable foundation that we can build on, and he is beckoning us to come to him.
As I finish my class, I can see that I have been building my foundation. This class is my first religion class at BYU, and it has taught be patterns for scripture study for the rest of my time at BYU and the rest of my life. Thank you Brother Griffin.
This week in Book of Mormon class, we studied Fourth Nephi. Fourth Nephi is an interesting book; it covers about 286 years in only four pages. The defining characteristic of the time period covered in Fourth Nephi is a state of peace and no contention. In verse two it states:
2 And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
The majority of the remaining verses in the book continue to be very similar. Peace, love, miracles, and prosperity all abounded. In fact, when abridging this text, found it sufficient to simply keep saying that the years continued to pass away in the same manner as previous verses.
Although this time of peace eventually came to an end, I find it amazing to think of such a paradisiacal society where contention was nonexistent. It shows what we can become if we are truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and strive to be the best we can be.
As we go through this upcoming Chirstmas season (it is December 7th as I write this) I encourage you to keep in mind the savior and how peaceful our lives can be if let him in to lead us, guide us, walk beside us, and shape us into the people he would have us be.
In my personal studies this week I have been in the middle of the book of Alma. Now, the titular prophet Alma has many great and inspired things to tell us in our time, but this week I was very impressed by the teachings of Ammon in Alma 26. As Ammon is preaching to his brethren, and recounts that they came into the wilderness to teach and to save souls. But, in the midst of doing all of these righteous things, Satan did not leave them alone. Yet, even in the midst of all these trials, Ammon’s teachings in verse 27 are very profound
27 Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.
Satan railed against them, and at their weakest moments when they felt about to be overcome and turn back, the Lord strengthened them and gave them comfort.
I love this scripture because it gives us a knowlege that the Lord is always there for us, and though we will be pushed further than we think we can be pushed, we will not be given trials beyond what we can bear with the help of the Lord.
This scripture is also highly applicable to modern missionary work. In this chapter Ammon has gone to teach his brethren, just as many latter-day saints are serving a mission today. Even in the darkest hours the Lord can and will strengthen us.
This week in my personal studies I was impressed by John 14:27. In this account of the Savior, this verse sticks out to me as highly applicable at any point in time. It reads
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
I feel that this is a teaching we should all strive to remember in our lives during times of trial. To me, this reminds me to take a step back, take a deep breath, trust in the Lord, and remember that everything will turn out fine in the long run so long as a strive to do my best and keep the commandments.
This can also be applicable to us on a more general level, just knowing that Christ is trying to calm us and give us peace in the midst of our trials. Christ performed an infinite atonement for not only all of our sins, but also all of our infirmities and trials. All we need to do is humble ourselves and ask for help.
This week in Book of Mormon class we discussed two topics on complete opposite ends of the gospel spectrum: antichrists and the Plan of Salvation. Today, I would like to explain some of the new insight I gained about the Plan of Salvation. I, like many others, often turn off my brain when I hear that the lesson in a particular church meeting is going to cover the plan of salvation. I think “OK, here we go again. Let’s draw some circles, dash a few lines, and maybe even make an analogy between a gloved hand and our mortal bodies.” But, this week I was able to gain additonal light and knowledge on the topic.
One of the main things focused on in the classic circle diagram is is location. Where we were, where we are, and where we are striving to go. Yet, when we are asked about the purpose of the plan of salvation the answer is two fold. We desire to return to live with our Heavenly Father, but we also desire to become like him. Which half, then, is the more important principle? Well, they are both equally important, but we have all previously lived in the presence of God, though we were not like him. We often become hyperfocused on returning to a location, and less on what we need to become to get there.
To be worthy of celestial glory, we need to become perfect beings. There is a slight issue with that: as humans we are inherently flawed and have to combat our carnal desires. As humans, we all make mistakes in that battle, and need to be cleansed through the healing power of the Atonement. As such, Christ’s Infinite Atonement is at the very center of the Plan.
In our lives, we can apply this knowledge to gain a new perspective on the need for repentance. Not only is repentance neccisary, coming unto Christ to be perfected in him is the central pillar of the Plan of Salvation. As we go through life let us not procrastinate repetance.
In Book of Mormon class this week, part of what we discussed was 2 Nephi 4. One of the many reasons this chapter merits reading is the counsel it can give when we are having a bad say, or feel like we are being overcome by sin. This is one of the moments in scripture where we see the great prophets of old as men, imperfect men with faults that they strive to overcome through the power of God. Nephi is a great example.
In class we covered verses 15-30, in which Nephi states the desires of his heart and how “his soul delighteth in the things of the Lord”, followed by a declaration of weakness, for we are all only human and will never be perfect on our own. But, through all that, he still lists the many blessings the Lord has given him, and reevaluates how he is living his life because of all the mighty miracles he has seen and the truth that has been witnessed unto him. Nephi then recommits to the Lord and eschews sin.
A portion of the chapter that we did not cover in class, however, is one of my favorite parts. In verse 34 Nephi cries
34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
I find this to be a very important part of coming to Christ. It is not just simply committing to keep the commandments, it is trusting our all to his tender care, knowing that he will always do what is best for us. If we only rely on our own understanding and judgement then we cannot progress.
One way we can apply this in our lives is by asking the Lord what specifically we can do to become better diciples of Jesus Christ. During this past October 2015 General Conference, I heard many general authorities and church leaders encourage us to go to the Lord in prayer and ask what we can do to better serve him. In order for us to truly benefit from His guidance, we need to trust in him and actually act on the prompting we will recieve if we sincerely ask in faith.
This week, I felt to post something from my personal studies in the New Testament. Reading in Ephisians 6, I was struck especially by the following passage
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
This excerpt comes from Paul’s oft quoted analogy of the Armor of God, which I have heard many times. This time I read the passage, the words of verse 12 seemed to take on a whole new meaning. Growing up, I’ve had a pretty easy life. I have been blessed to suffer few great temptations and challenges. Yet, as I embark on the journey that is the rest of my life, living on my own at college, I find that there are many new challenges. The challenge to wake up in the mornings and get to class, when no one but yourself is compelling you to. The challenge to get out of the apartment and make friends with people. The challenge of chemistry tests with an average grade of 74%. The challenge of balancing schoolwork with keeping spiritually nourished.
The real challenges of these things lies not in the task, but in the temptation to shirk our duty to accomplish these tasks. It is very easy to let our flame of faith dwindle when worldly cares start to push ever more into our lives. We are not battling against a burly Roman gladiator, but against the mighty warrior of Facebook. Distractions and temptations abound.
Yet, we are not alone in this battle. We have the whole Armor of God to help protect us. We can pray to our Father in Heaven and ask him to help us know how to best bear our trials. Let us put on the breastplate of rightousness and gird up our loins with truth that we may triumph over the wicked forces in this world.
Often in the LDS church we refer to the concept of having witnesness. We have witnesses for baptisms, there were witness of The Book of Mormon when the church was being established in the latter days. We even have the testimony of the three witnesses printed in our copies of the standard works. Witnesses are important, they help to validate and reinforce the truth of stated doctrine and principles. Often, we find accounts of multiple witnesses in the scriptures. This past week as I read in 2 Nephi 11, the following verse stuck out to me:
3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.
Here, it mentions that the word of God shall be established “by the words of three”. This got me to thinking about missionary work. Missionaries often bear witness of the truthfulness of the gosepel to those who are begining to learn about our teachings. I thought “Well, missionary work is the greatest work of the latter days, surely God would not leave his work to companionships of two young men if he wants to convert people to the gospel of Jesus Christ”. Shortly thereafter, I learned that there are three witnesses bearing truth of the gospel when the missionaries are teaching a lesson. There are the two people in the room you can see, and then a third, unseen, but very much there, presence. The Holy Ghost is there to testify of truth. God’s work is in fact coming out by the words of three witnesses.
I think it is important that as we all are member missionaries, we all need to teach with the spirit. And to those, such as my self, preparing to serve a mission, I would encourage you to remember that as you both learn and teach, the Spirit will be with you to guide and direct your actions, that they may be for the benefit of others.
I am struck this week by a point of doctrine covered in Book of Mormon class this week dealing with the Fall, capital “F”. The aforementioned Fall being the Fall of Adam and Eve, not the season of Autumn. In 2 Nephi 2:15 it reads
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
As a member of the LDS church, I have covered this topic many times. I always thought that the tree that would surely cause death would be bitter. Death is bitter; life is sweet. But, thinking about it anew, the truth is likely the opposite. The trees are mentioned in a parallel structure, first the forbidden fruit, and then the tree of life. Followed by sweet, and then bitter. If you match up the pairs in parallel structure, the forbidden fruit is sweet, while the fruit that brings eternal life is bitter.
The Fall was a neccisary part of the Plan of Salvation. The forbidden fruit was sweet because it was the appointed time for the Fall. The fruit of the tree of life was bitter because it was still growing. It was not yet ripe and ready to eat.
It is important to keep in mind the eternal nature of the Fall. It was neccisary for Adam and Eve to have children, for us to be born, and for us to return to our Father in heaven.
In Book of Mormon class this week, we began discussing 1 Nephi 8, which contains an account of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. Something that really struck me was something said my a fellow classmate. When discussing the filthy waters of the river, temptation, sin, and powers of the devil, a very insightful young woman recalled a teaching from one of her leaders. She said that if faith is the first principle of the gospel, then fear is the first weapon of the adversary. This really struck me when she said it, and reminded me of a scripture that I learned as part of the BYU Foundations of Leadership Conference. The theme was “Courage to Lead” and the scripture the conference was built around was 2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
As a freshman here at BYU, fear is an easy trap to slip into. Fear of classes and homework, fear of living on your own for the first time, fear of making friends and fitting into this community we are suddenly a part of. But, the spirit of fear is not something that we are given by God, it is the adversary’s tool to prevent us from reaching our potential. In my experience, I have had a fear of taking action. How are we supposed to grow and progress to our ultimate goal of returning to Heaven without any action on our part? I hope and pray that as we all continue in our lives, that we remember where fear comes from. Nevertheless, let us not forget what spirit the Lord does bless us with. We have the powers of heaven behind us, a loving Father urging us forward, and inspired guidance to help us on our way.