Hearken unto the Word of God

In teaching his brothers about the meaning of the iron rod, which their father saw in a dream, Nephi bears witness of the power of the word of God (which is what the iron rod in the dream symbolizes).

“…I said unto them that…whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:24)

-What words have the most influence over your life? Are these words from an earthly source or from a Heavenly source?

-Do you believe there are written and spoken words that come from a Heavenly source? If so, how can one identify language that is from God as opposed to that which is not?

-Is it possible to avoid, or cure, spiritual blindness with words that are not divinely inspired?

-Do you ever feel that the words that are influencing you are leading you to destruction? Have you felt the opposite where the words influencing you are bringing light and joy into your life?

-If you believe the Book of Mormon has a Heavenly source, how important is it to delve deeply and often into its pages? How important are its messages?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“When we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures; for His words are spoken through His prophets. He will then teach us as we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

“If you have not heard His voice speaking to you lately, return with new eyes and new ears to the scriptures. They are our spiritual lifeline” (Elder Richard D. Hales, “Holy Scriptures: The Power of God unto Our Salvation,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006, 26–27).

“[Lehi] saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. … Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries. … The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 80.)

“Let me suggest that holding fast to the iron rod entails, in large measure, the prayerful, consistent, and earnest use of the holy scriptures as a sure source of revealed truth and as a reliable guide for the journey along the strait and narrow path to the tree of life—even to the Lord Jesus Christ” (David A. Bednar, “Lehi’s Dream: Holding Fast to the Rod,” Ensign, Oct. 2011, 36).

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 64).

Video from Book of Mormon Central:

Lehi’s Descendants Will Come to a Knowledge of Their Forefathers and Their Redeemer

In teaching his brothers about the restoration of Israel in the last days, Nephi provides a specific example related to what, for them, would be future events in the Americas:

“…Then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed—And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.” (1 Nephi 15:13-14, 16)

Questions:

-What is the fulness of the gospel? Has it been extended by God to the Gentiles and, through the Gentiles, to Lehi’s descendants?

-Do those with native American ancestry largely identify as being part of the house of Israel today? How is acceptance of the Book of Mormon related to establishing that identity? How quickly has that identity grown since the publication of the Book of Mormon? Is it still growing today?

-Is there cultural or genetic evidence of native American ties to the house of Israel?

Video:
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Ask Me in Faith

After receiving revelation regarding his father’s dream and many future events, Nephi returns to his father’s camp and finds his brothers arguing about what their father had taught the family. Another powerful and clear message of the Book of Mormon unfolds as Nephi reminds his brothers that they should seek out the ultimate source of truth and knowledge (rather than simply relying on their own understandings) to obtain clarity about the matters they are disputing about:

Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11)

Questions:

-What are the essential elements of receiving guidance from God as described in the verse above?

-Is it always easy to maintain a soft heart when seeking answers from God?

-Do we sometimes ask in doubt (rather than in faith) and still expect an answer?

-Why is diligent keeping of the commandments an important aspect of receiving revelation from God? Is the strength of the Spirit in our lives tied to our ability to receive divine instruction? And, is the strength of the Spirit in our lives a constant? Or, does it wax and wane depending on a person’s actions in relation to God’s commandments?

-Is it easy to have preconceptions about how God will give us answers and how quickly the answers will come? Does having true faith that you will receive an answer part of having the patience necessary to help overcome these preconceptions?

The Apostle John Shall Write Concerning the End of the World

As Nephi’s vision — and the corresponding instruction from the Lord’s angel — concludes, Nephi is shown that one of Christ’s twelve apostles, called by the Lord during His earthy ministry, would write of many of the same things that Nephi had seen concerning events before Christ’s second coming.

“And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Behold, he shall see and write…many things which have been and shall also write concerning the end of the world. Wherefore the things which he shall write are just and true…And behold, the things which this apostle shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see. But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them. And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel. And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel.” (1 Nephi 14:20-27)

-Have you read John’s prophecies in the New Testament?

-Why would the Lord ordain John to write about certain events and ask other prophets (such as Nephi) not to write about the same events?

-Why, in the Lord’s wisdom, are some writings currently being held back from being available to those living on the earth?

-If the Book of Mormon — as its writers state — is the word of God, how receptive have the inhabitants of earth been to it in general? Will the Lord provide more scripture before the additional scriptures He has already provided (including the Bible and Book of Mormon) are respected and understood?

-Do prejudice and bias against the Book of Mormon create a “seal” by which Satan keeps individuals and large groups of people from receiving the light and knowledge God wants them to receive? If this seal is broken down, will it help prepare the way for the other sacred writings mentioned in these verses to be unsealed by God?

The Covenant People of the Lord Are Armed with Righteousness and the Power of God

Nephi sees, in a vision of the great division that will occur in the last days, the power that God will give to those who are faithful to their covenant relationship with Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.

I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God. And…I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory. (1 Nephi 14:13-14)

-If you believe this prophecy about how things will unfold in the time before Christ’s return, why do you think so many will end up yielding to the temptations of the devil and fight (it appears in an organized way) against Christ and His covenant people?

-What does it mean to be armed with righteousness? Will it be possible, individually and collectively as these events unfold, to withstand the power of the mother of abominations without being armed with righteousness and the power of God?

-Where do you feel you stand now in relation to God’s work and the godless work that is marshaling against the covenant people of the Lord?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“For the Church, the scriptures suggest both an accelerated sifting and accelerated spiritual and numerical growth—with all this preceding the time when the people of God will be ‘armed with righteousness’—not weapons—and when the Lord’s glory will be poured out upon them (1 Nephi 14:14; see also 1 Peter 4:17; D&C 112:25). The Lord is determined to have a tried, pure, and proven people (see D&C 100:16; 101:4; 136:31), and ‘there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it’ (Abraham 3:17)” (Neal A. Maxwell, “For I Will Lead You Along,” Ensign, May 1988, 8).


“Church members have a special rendezvous to keep, brothers and sisters. Nephi saw it. One future day, he said, Jesus’ covenant people, ‘scattered upon all the face of the earth,’ will be ‘armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.’ (1 Ne. 14:14.) This will happen, but only after more members become more saintly and more consecrated in conduct” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Repentance,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 32).

“We [members of the Church] are a tiny fraction when compared to the billions of people on earth. But we are who we are, and we know what we know, and we are to go forth and preach the gospel.

“The Book of Mormon makes it clear that we never will dominate by numbers. But we have the power of the priesthood [see 1 Nephi 14:14]. …

“We can and in due time certainly will influence all of humanity. It will be known who we are and why we are. It might seem hopeless; it is monumentally difficult; but it is not only possible but certain that we will win the battle against Satan” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Power of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 7).

There Are Two Churches Only

In teaching Nephi about the events of the last days, and the great division that will occur between those who serve the Lamb of God and those who reject Him (See The Lamb of God Will Work a Great and Marvelous Work), the angel of the Lord explains to Nephi that ultimately there are only two churches.

“And [the angel] said unto me: Behold there are two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.” (1 Nephi 14:10)

-If God has set Himself to test the hearts of all people in our time (as discussed in the post previous to this one—see The Lamb of God Will Work a Great and Marvelous Work), will the division between the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil become more distinct and recognizable than ever? In this scenario of clarification, how powerful would the draw of the work of the Lamb of God be to all good and sincere people (of all faiths and denominations) as the distinction unfolds and the true destructiveness and evil of the church of the devil is revealed?

Video from Book of Mormon Central:

The Lamb of God Will Work a Great and Marvelous Work—Either to the Convincing of Them unto Peace and Life Eternal or unto the Deliverance of Them to the Hardness of their Hearts

Nephi continues to be taught about the events of the last days.

“…The angel spake unto me, Nephi, saying: Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them…and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish. Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God. For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one had or the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually according to the captivity of the devil.” (1 Nephi 14:5-7)

-What does it mean to repent? And, according to the passage above, how important is repentance for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Gentiles?

-Does this message only apply to the Gentiles? Or, is it applicable to everyone?

-Are there signs of God’s great and marvelous work occurring now?

-Is your heart open to the Lamb of God and the work He is performing to bring peace and life eternal to all who will receive Him?

Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“As this work [of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] progresses in its onward course, and becomes more and more an object of political and religious interest and excitement, no king, ruler, or subject, no community or individual, will stand neutral. All will at length be influenced by one spirit or the other; and will take sides either for or against the kingdom of God” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [1965], 1:257)

That Great Pit Which Has Been Dug for the Destruction of Men Shall Be Filled by Those Who Dug It

Nephi continues to be taught, by an angel of the Lord, about events leading up to Christ’s second coming. He learns that the Gentiles in the Americas, and throughout the entire world, who receive Christ’s latter-day revelations and directions will inherit the covenant blessings of the house of Israel along with those who are tied to the house of Israel by ancestry (see A Promised Land for All Who Serve the Lamb of God).

On the other hand, Nephi also learns that those who fight against Christ’s words and actions in the last days — when He is gathering the house of Israel according to the covenants made with them — will shut themselves outside the covenant blessings and, thus, will be vulnerable to the destructive pitfalls laid by Satan to capture souls in our time. The snares laid to fight against Christ and His followers will turn to the detriment and destruction of those who laid the snares.

“…That great pit, which hath been digged…by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell—yea, that great pit which has been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God…For behold, this is according to the captivity of the devil, and also according to the justice of God, upon all those who will work wickedness and abomination before him.” (1 Nephi 14:3-4)

Questions:

-When a person or group has ill will toward another person or group, who does it usually hurt the most in the long run? Is it the person or group with the malice? Or, the person or group toward which the malice is directed? How long will a group or society focused on fault finding and entrapment of others function before turning on its own members?

-What is the nature of the figurative pit mentioned in this prophecy? How will it be dug by those who wish to trap others within it?

-How difficult will it be to escape the pit? As Christ manifests Himself in word, power, and deed to restore the fulness of His gospel and gather the house of Israel (see 1 Nephi 14:2 and A Promised Land for All Who Serve the Lamb of God) will it be possible to stay neutral? Or, will “sitting on the fence” be more difficult than ever as a clear separation develops between those who recognize Christ’s work as real and those who deny it and fight against its progress? (See Christ’s parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:25-30.)

A Promised Land for All Who Serve the Lamb of God

Lehi and his descendants were blessed by God to inherit their promised land in the Americas. As the angel – sent as God’s messenger — continues to teach Nephi, he is told that the Americas will also be a promised land to the Gentiles who choose to live by the fulness of Jesus Christ’s gospel as contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and all other words of direction Christ will extend through the restored Priesthood in the last days.

…If the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks—And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall no longer be brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel will no longer be confounded.” (1 Nephi 14:1-2)

-How has Jesus Christ manifested himself in word, power, and deed in our time? See the following posts for examples:

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“This great American nation the Almighty raised up by the power of his omnipotent hand, that it might be possible in the latter days for the kingdom of God to be established in the earth. If the Lord had not prepared the way by laying the foundations of this glorious nation, it would have been impossible (under the stringent laws and bigotry of the monarchical governments of the world) to have laid the foundations for the coming of his great kingdom. The Lord has done this” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 409).

The Book of Mormon Is a Witness to the Truth of the Bible

As Nephi continues to be taught by an angel of the Lord, he receives additional knowledge about the destiny of the record that his people would keep in the Americas. He is shown that when the people of the Old World — who believed in and revered the Bible — came to the New World, they would receive a confirming testimony from the religious record kept by Nephi and his descendants who had lived centuries before in the New World: The testimonies of the Old and New World would come together and support each other in declaring that Jesus is the Savior.

“For behold saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief…these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb. And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and salvation.

And the angel spake unto me saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first…and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved. And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.” (1 Nephi 13:35-36,40-41)

Questions:

-Did Christ visit the Americas after His resurrection (see 3 Nephi 11)?

-In this time where atheistic worldviews are becoming increasingly popular, how valuable is the knowledge that God is still working to gather and bless those who would have Him to be their God? How valuable is it to have another scriptural witness that Jesus is the Savior of all the world?

-How hard do you think the adversary would work to defame and downplay a powerful second witness of Christ? How many people quickly dismiss the value of the Book of Mormon without personally studying it and asking God in prayer if it is from Him?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“Scriptural witnesses authenticate each other. This concept was explained long ago when a prophet wrote that the Book of Mormon was ‘written for the intent that ye may believe [the Bible]; and if ye believe [the Bible] ye will believe [the Book of Mormon] also’ [Mormon 7:9]. Each book refers to the other. Each book stands as evidence that God lives and speaks to His children by revelation to His prophets.

“Love for the Book of Mormon expands one’s love for the Bible and vice versa. Scriptures of the Restoration do not compete with the Bible; they complement the Bible” (“Scriptural Witnesses,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 43).

Teachings of the Seventies

“The Bible is one witness of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon is another. Why is this second witness so crucial? The following illustration may help: How many straight lines can you draw through a single point on a piece of paper? The answer is infinite. For a moment, suppose that single point represents the Bible and that hundreds of those straight lines drawn through that point represent different interpretations of the Bible and that each of those interpretations represents a different church.

“What happens, however, if on that piece of paper there is a second point representing the Book of Mormon? How many straight lines could you draw between these two reference points: the Bible and the Book of Mormon? Only one. Only one interpretation of Christ’s doctrines survives the testimony of these two witnesses.

“Again and again the Book of Mormon acts as a confirming, clarifying, unifying witness of the doctrines taught in the Bible so that there is only ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’ For example, some people are confused as to whether baptism is essential for salvation even though the Savior declared to Nicodemus, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). The Book of Mormon, however, eliminates all doubt on that subject: ‘And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, … or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God’ (2 Nephi 9:23).

“There exist various modes of baptisms in the world today even though the Bible tells us the manner in which the Savior, our great Exemplar, was baptized: ‘[He] went up straightway out of the water’ (Matthew 3:16). Could He have come up out of the water unless He first went down into the water? Lest there be any discord on this subject, the Book of Mormon dispels it with this straightforward statement of doctrine as to the proper manner of baptism: ‘And then shall ye immerse them in the water’ (3 Nephi 11:26). …

“The list of doctrinal confirmations and clarifications goes on and on, but none is more powerful nor poignant than the Book of Mormon’s discourses on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Would you like to have emblazoned on your soul an undeniable witness that the Savior descended beneath your sins and that there is no sin, no mortal plight outside the merciful reach of His Atonement—that for each of your struggles He has a remedy of superior healing power? Then read the Book of Mormon. It will teach you and testify to you that Christ’s Atonement is infinite because it circumscribes and encompasses and transcends every finite frailty known to man. That is why the prophet Mormon declared, ‘Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ’ (Moroni 7:41)” (Tad R. Callister, “The Book of Mormon—a Book from God,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 75–76).