He Is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever

Nephi knew he could obtain the same revelation and knowledge that his father had received based on the following principles pertaining to God’s character and responsiveness to those who seek Him:

…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. 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.” (1 Nephi 10:18-19)

Questions:

-What is the significance of God preparing the way for all mankind “from the foundation of the world” to come unto Him?

-Do you believe He has prepared the way for you? Are you willing to diligently seek Him in order to have the “mysteries of God unfolded” to you? What would it mean for you to repent and come unto Him?

-Is it possible you could see a vision similar to what Lehi saw? (1 Nephi 8). Or, was Lehi’s vision the kind of exceptional experience that few others would ever have?

-Nephi testifies that revelation from God comes by the power of the Holy Ghost. Does the Holy Ghost work with every individual in the same way? Or, do personal differences, gifts, and circumstances make the witness of the Holy Ghost unique to every individual?

-What does it mean that the “course of the Lord is one eternal round”?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“Living the Lord’s standards requires that we cultivate the gift of the Holy Ghost. That gift helps us understand doctrine and apply it personally. Because truth given by revelation can only be understood by revelation, our studies need to be prayerful” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Living by Scriptural Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 17).

The Gift of God unto All Those Who Diligently Seek Him

After hearing all God had shown to his father, through prophetic revelation, Nephi desired to obtain a deeper knowledge of what he had heard. As he states in the following passage, he knew there was only one reliable way to obtain that deeper knowledge.

I Nephi was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him.” (1 Nephi 10:17)

Questions:

How can a person diligently seek God?

Do you believe you have diligently sought a greater understanding of who God is and what His will is for you?  If not, would it be worthwhile to make the effort?

How do you expect the Holy Ghost to work with you as you earnestly seek greater knowledge from God?

Do you believe He will work with you?

Why would God require a certain amount of diligence and effort before extending the gift of the Holy Ghost?

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

“[The spirit of revelation] is not restricted to the presiding authorities of the Church; rather, it belongs to and should be operative in the life of every man, woman, and child who reaches the age of accountability and enters into sacred covenants. Sincere desire and worthiness invite the spirit of revelation into our lives” (David A. Bednar, “The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 87).

The House of Israel Should Come to a Knowledge of Their Redeemer

Another message from the Book of Mormon comes as Lehi continues to prophesy to his family. He explains that it was part of God’s plan to scatter the people of Israel throughout the earth (including leading Lehi’s family to the Americas) but He would later work to gather them again — physically and spiritually. Lehi foresaw that after the death of Christ a portion of His Gospel would survive among some of the nations of the Gentiles (nations in Europe, portions of northern Africa, and western Asia, for example, whose majority religion became Christian and whose emigrants later established nation states in the Americas). Lehi prophesied to his family that when the fullness of the gospel was again restored to the Gentiles, the regathering of the house of Israel — including Lehi’s descendants in the Americas — would begin.

And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel…the remnants of the house of Israel should…come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.” (1 Nephi 10:14)

Questions:

-Is there evidence of the people of Israel being gathered spiritually and physically in our time as God has promised they would be?

-If only a portion of Christ’s gospel survived among the Christian nations, has the fullness of that Gospel been restored in our time?

-Is there a church established on the earth today that claims to be carrying out such a restoration and gathering of Israel based on direct authority and instruction from God?

-If, as the scriptures testify, God always keeps His promises, how important is it to be a part of His work in fulfilling promises made to those who went before us? Is it likely a church which does not align itself with the impetus of such powerful promises, as a key element of its teachings and practice, contains the fullness of the Gospel?

Rely on This Redeemer

As a prophet of God, Lehi had uncommon insight into God’s work and many future events. He shared many of these things with his family including Nephi who recorded some of what he heard, which record became part of the Book of Mormon.

When speaking of the future of Jerusalem, Lehi foresaw the coming of a Messiah and declared that…

“…All mankind were in a lost and fallen state, and ever would be save they…rely on this Redeemer.” (1 Nephi 10:6)

Questions

-What signs do you see around you that the inhabitants of the earth are in a lost and fallen state?

-What does it mean to rely on Jesus Christ who is the Redeemer of which Lehi spoke?

-How do you feel about Lehi’s declaration that there is no other way to overcome the lost and fallen state of humanity except through the Redeemer?

The Lord Knoweth All Things from the Beginning

When Nephi wrote the events of his life, he divided it into two distinct records. One was devoted to the things of God in the form of teaching, instruction, and prophesy. The other focused more on historical events. He took this dual approach to record keeping based on a commandment received from the Lord, but Nephi didn’t know exactly what the Lord’s purpose was in giving him this direction. What he did know, as he expresses below, made him confident to proceed as directed.

“…The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.” (1 Nephi 9:6)

Questions:

-If there are no unforeseen developments from God’s perspective and He has all power to fulfill His work, how confident can you be in Him and His promises?

-If you know, or came to know, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, how valuable would it be to have the promises of God and the knowledge of His work that is contained within it?

-How can you know whether the Book of Mormon is a work of God or isn’t? (see Moroni 10:3-5) 

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“Sometimes when we are asked to be obedient, we do not know why, except the Lord has commanded. … Nephi followed instructions even though he didn’t fully understand the wise purpose. His obedience resulted in blessings to mankind all over the world” (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “Who Will Forfeit the Harvest?” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 51).

“Without the knowledge of all things God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him.” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith [1985], 51–52).

The Lord is Able to Do All Things According to His Will

After the brothers returned to their father’s camp with the Brass Plates, Lehi, their father, received additional revelation that the young men were to go to Jerusalem once again and bring back the family of a man named Ishmael. The brothers are successful in convincing Ishmael and his family to join the divinely mandated exodus to a new land but on the way back to Lehi’s camp Laman, Lemuel, and some of Ishmael’s family had second thoughts and wanted to return to Jerusalem.

As part of his effort to keep them from doubting and rebelling against specific direction given by God to leave Jerusalem, Nephi asks the following:

“…How is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him?” (1 Nephi 7:12)

Questions:

-How can you know God’s will?

-How do you know when your will and God’s will are aligned?

-Is there any limit to what God can provide by way of help and guidance when your will is aligned with His?

-How important is faith as a catalyst for allowing God’s strength into your life?

The Lord Slayeth the Wicked

The third attempt to obtain the Brass Plates was carried out alone by Nephi while his brothers waited outside the city. He wasn’t sure how he would succeed, but he went forward trusting that the Lord would prepare the way. After entering the city, he found Laban (the man who had the Plates and had attempted to kill him and his brothers) drunk on the ground.

After taking the sword from Laban’s sheath Nephi experienced the following internal struggle:

“And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him. And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

And…the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord has delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (1 Nephi 4:10-13)

-How often is the spiritual fate of an entire future nation so closely tied to the actions of one man (such as Laban)?

-If you believe God gave us life, do you also believe He has the power and authority to take it away based on His higher wisdom and timing?

-Do you think the adversary attempted to make Nephi feel guilty about what he had done in this very exceptional circumstance (even though he did do what was right)?

Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“I believe that story was placed in the very opening verses of a 531-page book and then told in painfully specific detail in order to focus every reader of that record on the absolutely fundamental gospel issue of obedience and submission to the communicated will of the Lord. If Nephi cannot yield to this terribly painful command, if he cannot bring himself to obey, then it is entirely probable that he can never succeed or survive in the tasks that lie just ahead.

‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded’ (1 Nephi 3:7). I confess that I wince a little when I hear that promise quoted so casually among us. Jesus knew what that kind of commitment would entail, and so now does Nephi. And so will a host of others before it is over. That vow took Christ to the cross on Calvary, and it remains at the heart of every Christian covenant. ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.’ Well, we shall see” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Will of the Father”).

He is Mightier than All the Earth

After two unsuccessful attempts at obtaining the Brass Plates (see previous post The Lord Prepares the Way) from a man named Laban, Laman and LemuelNephi’s two older brothers — were ready to give up. They were afraid of confronting Laban because of the strength he had as an individual and the power he had, as a leader in Jerusalem, to command a small army. After the second attempt to obtain the plates, Laban had attempted to kill the brothers.

Nephi addressed their concerns as follows:

Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands? (1 Nephi 4:1)

-How meaningful would it be to have an Ally who is mightier than all the earth?

-In His higher wisdom, God will not always intervene in a life — or in events on the earth more broadly — the way we may want Him to. So, how can you know if God, the mightiest of allies, will or will not answer your prayers for specific blessings in your life?

-If the Book of Mormon is what Moroni declares it is in his introduction (see Condemn Not the Things of God) and was brought to us by the gift and power of God: How could understanding and living by the commandments contained in the Book of Mormon increase the power of God in your life?

-Was Nephi in a position where he hoped God would assist him? Or, was hope replaced by trust because he knew he was fulfilling a commandment? Can your relationship with God graduate from hope to trust when your will and actions are aligned with God’s commandments?

-Is it possible to trust someone you don’t know?  Is it possible to know God and, therefore, trust Him? Would you say Nephi’s knowledge of God was based more on theological studies or more on actual experience?

The Lord Prepares the Way

Another direct teaching comes from Nephi while giving the account of his family’s journey to the Americas. After leaving Jerusalem, Lehi (Nephi’s father) receives direction from God to have Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem and obtain a historical record contained on brass plates. Two of Nephi’s brothers complained and resisted, but Nephi declared his willingness to go and do what was required. In his record, as contained in third chapter of the Book of Mormon, he shares the principle of truth on which his willingness was based:

“…I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

Questions:

-Have you received commandments from God? If so, what commandments have you received? Are you conscientious about following through based on any direction you have received?

-Are God’s commandments applicable to everyone? Where can these commandments be found?

-Are some commandments more foundational or important than others? (see Mark 12:30-31)

-How sure can you be, based on Nephi’s statement, that it is possible to accomplish what you have been commanded to do?

Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“Obedience is the first law of heaven. All progression, all perfection, all salvation, all godliness, all that is right and just and true, all good things come to those who live the laws of Him who is Eternal. There is nothing in all eternity more important than to keep the commandments of God” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 126).

“The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you. [See 1 Nephi 3:7.]

“Your agency, the right to make choices, is not given so that you can get what you want. This divine gift is provided so that you will choose what your Father in Heaven wants for you. That way He can lead you to become all that He intends you to be. [See D&C 58:26–32.]” (“Finding Joy in Life,” Ensign, May 1996, 25).

Condemn Not the Things of God

The very first messages of the Book of Mormon come from an introduction likely written by a prophet named Moroni who lived in the Americas around 400 A.D. To introduce the record his father Mormon had put together and abridged, Moroni declares the following truths about its purpose and meaning:

  • “It is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi
  • “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile
  • “Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophesy and of revelation
  • “Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they [the metal plates on which the record was kept] might not be destroyed”
  • “To come forth by the gift and power of God
  • “To come forth in due time by way of the Gentile…the interpretation thereof by the gift of God”
  • “To show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers…that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever”
  • “To…convinc[e] Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations”
  • “If there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgement-seat of Christ” (For full text see Title Page of the Book of Mormon)

Questions:

-How important would it be to make meaningful use of a gift, readily available to you in the form of a book, that was brought into being by the power of God?

-If God made covenants with those who lived before our time — who sought His help and guidance in their lives – is there any doubt that He would follow through with the promises He made to them? Could our relationship to God in the present have important ties to those promises He made in the past and is now fulfilling?

 Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“The title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the … book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, … and … said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man who has lived or does live in this generation” (Joseph Smith quoted in History of the Church, 1:71)

“The major mission of the Book of Mormon, as recorded on its title page, is ‘to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.’ The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon. Over one-half of all the verses in the Book of Mormon refer to our Lord. Some form of Christ’s name is mentioned more frequently per verse in the Book of Mormon than even in the New Testament. He is given over one hundred different names in the Book of Mormon. Those names have a particular significance in describing His divine nature” (Ezra Taft Benson from “Come unto Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 83).

Video from Book of Mormon Central: