Sunday, May 28, 2017

Unification of Worlds and Scriptures -- 1 Nephi Chapter 13

What Happens

"Nephi sees in vision the church of the devil set up among the Gentiles, the discovery and colonizing of America, the loss of many plain and precious parts of the Bible, the resultant state of gentile apostasy, the restoration of the gospel, the coming forth of latter-day scripture, and the building up of Zion."
1 Nephi 13 Chapter Heading


Commentary

Nephi's vision continues. I really like the way the angel is making the vision interactive at the beginning of this chapter (and before). He shows Nephi something, asks what he sees to make sure he's on the right page, and then he explains it, or teaches him something about it.

Knowing a bit of history as we do, we can kind of see what is going on here. Satan builds up an evil church (which should really be a contradiction in terms, but unfortunately is not), and things are getting bad on one side of the "many waters" and then people are led to (re)discover the new world, which is Nephi's promised land. It's something that we know in the parable of the vineyard (Jacob 5) is a good thing, but it is also a tragic thing in so many ways. Nephi has to have some conflicting emotions here... he knows that there is at least a little mixture of his blood left in his family's descendants that are being scattered and smitten, and yet he also knows in his vision that "the power of the Lord was with" the people doing the smiting.

That's a theme that we don't usually talk about in the gospel a lot, but one that is very prevalent. Just like in the parable of the vineyard, sometimes the trees need to be pruned of the evil so that the good will grow, and sometimes God will "cut down that which cumbered this spot of ground" (Jacob 5:44), so that he can plant something else.  Nephi has already experienced this in a very personal way when he was commanded to kill Laban, and now he is seeing it in a much larger way.  I imagine that it was a hard thing for him, but also a very valuable perspective--knowing why it is all necessary probably softened the blow, and I think really prepares Nephi for his role in history.  

Nephi sees the book that the Gentiles carry with them, and I think it is interesting that the Angel tells him that it is like the plates of brass, except that there aren't as many prophecies.  You really have to wonder what all is in the plates of Brass if it was already more complete than the Bible 600 years before Christ. :)  And then Nephi gets a much more specific idea of his role in the restoration of the gospel and the plain and precious parts that have been left out or removed by the bad guys.  He goes forward from this knowing exactly why he is keeping the records that he makes, and who he is writing them for.  He knows us, at least in part, and like Moroni, speaks "out of the dust" (Moroni 10:27) directly to us.

I really love the end of this chapter as it talks about building Zion, and convincing people that the gospel is all one.  We sometimes take the scriptures for granted, but how important they are... how important they *all* are, together, in helping everyone to learn the same gospel and be on the same page with God.  And imagine Joseph Smith, translating all of this for the first time, and reading Nephi's vision about how important it was that all of this be restored, and be joined with the other scriptures to show the world that "there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth" (verse 41).  I'm not sure that we fully realize the importance to ourselves and to the world that we take the missing plain and precious things and understand how all the broken shards of the gospel fit into one whole.  Not, of course, telling everyone else that they are wrong, but in realizing, yes... that's good and true.  And there is more where that came from. :)  That strong vision and purpose comes across here, not only connecting Nephi and Joseph Smith in God's purpose, but pulling us in as well, urging us to continue the work. :)

Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of Nephi's vision.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Nephi Peeks at His Posterity -- 1 Nephi Chapter 12

What Happens

"Nephi sees in vision the land of promise; the righteousness, iniquity, and downfall of its inhabitants; the coming of the Lamb of God among them; how the Twelve Disciples and the Twelve Apostles will judge Israel; and the loathsome and filthy state of those who dwindle in unbelief."
1 Nephi 12 Chapter Heading


Commentary

This chapter starts up again still in the middle of Nephi's vision.  The first thing that the angel shows him in this part of the vision is the land of promise and his descendants and the descendants of his brothers.  Nephi mentions that it seems like they are "in number as many as the sand of the sea" (verse 1).  So, right off this chapter is incredible.  I mean, Nephi doesn't even get married until chapter 16, and here we are in 12 and he is seeing his posterity covering the promised land.  Given the limited choices, he probably already knows who his wife is going to be, but still... that seems like a lot of pressure.  Plus, amazingly cool to actually get to kind of skip ahead in time and see that you made a difference.  That things are different because you lived.  Wow, right?

He already saw Christ's mortal ministry earlier in this vision (long vision), and now he gets to see Christ come again, this time to his own descendants.  He sees the period of time where they live in peace following his coming for over three generations, and I am sure this part of the vision brought him a lot of joy... it is an amazing vision anyway, but even more so because it is personal to him. This is his family.

Then the angel starts explaining what he had asked at the beginning of the vision, which was to know the interpretation of his father's dream.  And as the angel is interpreting it, he is seeing it, in another way, actually happening to his descendants.  Still incredible, but also becoming incredibly sad, as he watches his descendants fall into temptation and pride, and then be overcome, and his brothers' descendants "dwindle in unbelief" (verse 22).

I can't imagine what it would be like to so much of the history of the earth laid out before you like that (which continues into the next chapter).  I think it would be great, but also very emotional, especially if you were connected to it in so many ways as Nephi is.

Luckily for Nephi, even though this chapter ends on kind of a down note, the vision itself eventually gets better again.  You have to wonder how much time this vision took in real life, since he sees *so* much.

Tune in next time as Nephi's vision continues.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lessons of Eternity -- 1 Nephi Chapter 11

What Happens

"Nephi sees the Spirit of the Lord and is shown in vision the tree of life—He sees the mother of the Son of God and learns of the condescension of God—He sees the baptism, ministry, and crucifixion of the Lamb of God—He sees also the call and ministry of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb."
1 Nephi 11 Chapter Heading


Commentary

This chapter hits home from the very beginning.  In the first verse Nephi mentions three things that were important to his vision:

  • He desired to know the things that his father had seen.
  • He believed that the Lord could show him and help him know.
  • He pondered about these things in his heart.


I'm going to call these things Desire, Faith, and Prayer.  The spirit walks him through these things as well as soon as the vision starts.  He is already praying... communing with God, just visually now instead of only in his heart, and the Spirit asks him what he desires, and whether he believes what his father has seen.  This is a different belief than the one that led him to the vision, but it is still faith.  All of these things seem to be prerequisites to his experience.

Another thing that strikes me in this chapter is the way that the Lord teaches.  Nephi sees what his father saw, and asks for the interpretation.  As with the Brother of Jared, the Spirit doesn't just spoon-feed Nephi the answer so he can memorize it for the test.  He shows him something seemingly unrelated, and then he asks... do you understand now?  God makes Nephi do the mental work of connecting the two things symbolically.  And Nephi gets it, and says the tree is the love of God, most desirable above all things (verse 22), and then Spirit helps him understand a little more and adds that it is also the most joyous to the soul (verse 23). :)

Nephi is shown more of the life of Christ, and as he sees his life, he understands what the symbolism of the dream is, more and more.  Including the rod of iron being the word of God (verse 25) and the great and spacious building being the pride of the world (verse 36).

The coolest thing about this chapter perhaps is that Nephi sees the life of Christ before it happens in "real" life.  The atonement was as real to them, hundreds of years before it happened, as it is to us, hundreds of years afterward.  It is an eternal event that transcends our mortal sense of time and space, because it saves even people like Nephi, who lived before it happened, and us, who are living very much later.  That's something that is hard for us to imagine, since we are so tied to our ideas of needing someone physically close to us to save us or help us... but it is also good for us to learn these eternal things, so that we can feel God close to us every moment of the day, and his power through the atonement and the gospel not just in the moment, but reaching everywhere and everywhen. :)  Cool of Nephi to share his lessons about eternity with us.

Tune in next time as Nephi's vision continues.

Monday, May 8, 2017

More Cool Prophecies of Lehi -- 1 Nephi Chapter 10

What Happens

"Lehi predicts that the Jews will be taken captive by the Babylonians—He tells of the coming among the Jews of a Messiah, a Savior, a Redeemer—Lehi tells also of the coming of the one who should baptize the Lamb of God—Lehi tells of the death and resurrection of the Messiah—He compares the scattering and gathering of Israel to an olive tree—Nephi speaks of the Son of God, of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and of the need for righteousness."
1 Nephi 10 Chapter Heading


Commentary
After Lehi exhorts his family to be diligent chapter nine ends with a testimony that the Lord knows the beginning to the end and that all his works will be accomplished: "He hath all power unto the fulfilling of a his words. And thus it is." (1 Nephi 9:6).

Nephi records the prophecies of his father on the plates at the beginning of  Nephi's reign and ministry in this powerfully packed chapter.

And thus it is that...

  • The fate of the Jews is to see Jerusalem destroyed, brought into bondage in Babylon, eventually freed by the hand of the Lord and the possession the land of their inheritance will be restored.
  • In some 600 years a Messiah , the Savior of the World would come from among the Jews.
  • John the Baptist is mentioned (not by name) as the one to prepare the way for the Savior and would baptize him.
  • Jesus to come to the promised land, deliver the Gospel to the Jew, be slain and rise from the dead, and be "manifest" unto the gentiles by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  • The scattering and gathering of Israel is compared to a olive tree.

But wait, there's more...

In verse 15 Nephi tells us there is more information in the large plates than is recorded here.  It's hard to imagine what else could be said because of all the wonderful things that Lehi prophesied.

We are also comforted to know that the Lord is a true foundation that does not change. We can rely on him. Verse 18 tells us "For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him."

Verse 19: The Holy Ghost will help us know.  As Nephi desired to know, his prayers were answered.
"For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round."

Nephi's testimony of God's words are powerful because they are given by the power and authority of the spirit. Likewise, our testimonies when prompted by the spirit should be spoken with that same life changing power. The parting words apply to us too; do not deny. We have seen how God knows the beginning and the end. Ours is to accept, share, repent, and come unto him. It is wonderful, wouldn't you agree?

Tune in next time when Nephi experiences some powerful unfolding as alluded to in verse 19.