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:

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 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).

I Will Bring Forth unto Them, in My Own Power, Much of My Gospel

After Nephi is shown that many truths would be taken from the gospel record prior to the Bible coming to the Americas, he is also shown that God would reestablish these lost truths by His own power.

…Because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book…an exceedingly great many do stumble…insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. Nevertheless…God will not suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness…they are in because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church…Behold, saith the Lamb of God, I will bring forth unto them, in my own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious.” (1 Nephi 13:29-30, 32-34)

Questions:

-Do you believe that the Book of Mormon was brought to us through Jesus Christ’s own power? Can you make a meaningful decision about your belief without carefully reading the book and seeking God’s guidance about its truth?

-If the Book of Mormon contains many plain and precious truths, brought to us through God’s direction and revelation (see Condemn not the Things of God), how important is it to read and understand?

– Was the coming forth of the Book of Mormon the culmination of social thought or the product of the most educated and sophisticated religious minds of its day (i.e., man’s power)? Or, was it by God’s power—through a commandment to ancient American prophets to keep a record and a commandment to a modern-day prophet to translate it by the power of revelation?

-Are there other books — besides the Book of Mormon — that have come to us in modern times, by God’s power, and have helped to restore plain and precious truths?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power. But it does even more. Much of the Christian world today rejects the divinity of the Savior. They question His miraculous birth, His perfect life, and the reality of His glorious resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches in plain and unmistakable terms about the truth of all of those. It also provides the most complete explanation of the doctrine of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 5).

“The Lord himself has stated that the Book of Mormon contains the ‘fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ’ (Doctrine & Covenants 20:9). That does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 6).


“The Book of Mormon is another testament of Christ. It restored precious truths concerning the Fall, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and life after death.

“Prior to the Restoration, the heavens had been closed for centuries. But with prophets and apostles upon the earth once more, the heavens were opened once again with visions and revelations. Many of the revelations that came to the Prophet Joseph Smith were written down in a book that came to be known as the Doctrine and Covenants. This contains further insights about principles and ordinances and is a valuable source concerning the structure of the priesthood. In addition, we have another canon of scripture called the Pearl of Great Price. It contains the book of Moses, which came by revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the book of Abraham, which he translated from a purchased Egyptian scroll. From these we learn not only a great deal more about Moses, Abraham, Enoch, and other prophets but also many more details about the Creation. We learn that the gospel of Jesus Christ was taught to all of the prophets from the beginning—even from the time of Adam” (James E. Faust, “The Restoration of All Things,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 67–68).


“If…parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase, mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.” (Marion G. Romney, “The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, 65-67)

No Unclean Thing Can Dwell with God

After describing God’s perfect and caring consistency in his relationship to mankind (and every individual who ever was and is a part of it), Nephi concludes his message on a cautionary note.

“…For all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment. Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.” (1 Nephi 10:20-21)

Questions:

-What does it mean to seek after wickedness? Why does participating in wickedness make a person unclean?

-Why is it that nothing unclean (including an unclean soul) can stay in the presence of God?

-What is the difference between being clean and being perfect? Does this passage say that a soul needs to be perfect to enter God’s kingdom?

-Since all of us have been tainted — to some degree or another — by the wickedness of this world, how can we be made clean again and return to live with God? (See: Rely on This Redeemer; Repentance; Atonement)

-Why does Nephi refer to mortality as a time of probation?

-Is there a point where all who are unclean will remain so forever?

-If you believe there will be a day of judgment, how does it affect the way you live your life day to day? If a day of judgment is in the future, how important is it to know this and to be prepared?

-Would a perfect God provide anything less than a perfect judgment? Would a God who loves perfectly offer everything He possibly could in terms of eternal blessings?

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 Righteous Shall Be Saved Even If It So Be by Fire

Nephi continues to interpret and expand on Isaiah’s prophecies of the last days around the time of Christ’s Second Coming. After emphasizing that all who fight against Zion will be destroyed, he provides additional detail about why this destruction will occur.

“…[T]he time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned. For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous. Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved even if it so be as by fire.” (1 Nephi 22:15-17)

Questions:

-Do these verses only refer to cleansing of the earth at the time of Christ’s Second Coming? Or, is it an expression of a more general principle by which the Lord will operate as the wheat is gathered from the tares (See Matthew 13:24–30; D&C 86:1–7) leading up to the Second Coming?

-Why is pride such a powerful indicator of not being on the side of the righteous? What are some other indicators of being an enemy of righteousness? (see These are Those Who Must Be Consumed as Stubble)

All That Fight Against Zion Shall Be Destroyed

In interpreting Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 for his brothers, Nephi again teaches about the fate of those who fight against the people of the Lord in the last days.

“…[T]he blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood. And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.” (1 Nephi 22:13-14) 

Questions:

-Would the people of the Lord (true followers of Jesus Christ who receive His Spirit) ever be filled with the kind of anger and ill-will that leads to widespread violence and war?

-How quickly, on the other hand, would a group or society that is animated by such ill-will and anger start to turn upon itself and any of its neighbors who are under the influence of the same dark spirit?

-What role will anger toward the truth and light of Zion play in separating the wicked from the righteous in the last days?

-Are there growing signs of hatred toward the Lord’s people (who will not bow to the deteriorating status quos of the societies around them)?

-How easy will it be for those with good-will toward all—and high standards of conduct based on the truths of revealed scripture—to stay separated from each other in the midst of those who have fallen prey to contagious hatred born of ill-will and anger? Will the good in heart from all faiths be gathered together in solidarity, of necessity, as the great and abominable church (described in the passage above) begins to destroy itself?

The Lord God will Bring the House of Israel Out of Captivity, Obscurity, and Darkness

Nephi continues to teach his brothers about the meaning of a portion of Isaiah’s prophecies found in the Brass Plates (comparable to Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 in the Old Testament). In interpreting the words of Isaiah, he again touches on the work the Lord will do through and for the children of Israel in the last days.

“Wherefore, he will bring [the house of Israel] again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (1 Nephi 22:12)

-Why did Jesus Christ focus his earthly ministry on the house of Israel? What is the principle by which He still focuses on, and operates through, the house of Israel to bless others throughout the world? How are the covenants He made to such men as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — who sought Him out and found Him thousands of years ago — tied to this principle of blessing the earth through the house of Israel?

-If someone who is of the house of Israel receives greater spiritual opportunities and does not magnify these opportunities to bless others, is his or her standing before God in greater peril compared with someone who never had such opportunities? Are those of the house of Israel held to a higher standard by God, given their calling to bless others though the blessings they have received? Will they either prosper greatly or be deeply confounded based on their decisions to either love God and keep His commandments or to reject Him and His counsel? Is there greater potential for wickedness and evil among those who are part of a covenant people and then fail to live by those covenants?

-Who in the world currently has a covenant relationship with God? How were those covenants established? Were they initiated directly and clearly by God? Or, was the source of the covenants of less distinct origin?  Does it matter, once true covenants are entered into with God, whether the person is a literal descendant of the Israelites or not?

-What kind of captivity, obscurity, and darkness will the Lord bring the house of Israel out of as Isaiah’s prophecies are fulfilled in our time?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“The gathering of Israel consists in believing and accepting and living in harmony with all that the Lord once offered his ancient chosen people. … It consists of believing the gospel, joining the Church, and coming into the kingdom. … It may also consist of assembling to an appointed place or land of worship” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 515).