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?

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)

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 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).

The Holy Ghost Filleth with Hope and Perfect Love

Mormon succinctly describes the path to dwelling with God and His saints.

“And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” (Moroni 8:25-26)

Questions:

-Are there other commandments, besides baptism, that when kept bring a remission of sins?

-How important is heartfelt prayer when it comes to staying on the path back to God’s eternal presence?

The Father Giveth the Holy Ghost unto the Children of Men Because of Me

Christ teaches that the power of the Holy Ghost is an intercessory gift. The Holy Ghost does not operate separate from Christ’s role as the Mediator with the Father on behalf of all mankind.

“…The Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and the Father giveth the Holy Ghost unto the children of men, because of me.” (3 Nephi 28:11)

Questions:

-Why would the Holy Ghost be without effect for humankind separate from Christ’s atoning power?

-Are there specific commandments from God that a person needs to follow in order to draw on the full power of the Holy Ghost?

Ye May Stand Spotless Before Me at the Last Day

Christ teaches that no unclean thing can persist in the kingdom of God, but all who repent, are baptized, and remain faithful to Christ to the end will be sanctified by the Holy Ghost and will stand clean in His presence at the Last Judgment (ready to enter into God’s kingdom).

“…No unclean thing can enter into [the Father’s] kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” (3 Nephi 27:19-20)

Questions:

-Are the words of Christ designed to work within us to keep us spiritually alert and focused?

-Do His teachings in these verses lead one to be complacent about God’s saving power? Or, do the qualifications of baptism and faithfulness to the end, through continual repentance, challenge a soul to actively gather greater spiritual intelligence through the application of free will in line with God’s commandments?

-If God loves us and can magnify the spiritual intelligence we obtain in this life throughout eternity, how import would it be for Him to encourage His children to gain as much light as possible during their mortal probation?   

This Is the Thing Which I Give unto You for a Sign

The coming forth of Christ’s words in the Book of Mormon is a sign that God has commenced a great and marvelous work to gather the house of Israel in the latter days. The Book of Mormon and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is an invitation to the Gentiles to become part of the house of Israel and an invitation to the house of Israel to gather in unto their Savior.

Below is Jesus Christ speaking to a group of the descendants of the house of Israel in the Americas about A.D. 34.

“…This is the thing which I will give unto you for a sign—for verily I say unto you that when these things which I declare unto you, and which I shall declare unto you hereafter of myself, and by the power of the Holy Ghost which shall be given unto you of the Father, shall be made known unto the Gentiles that they may know concerning this people who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, and concerning this my people who shall be scattered by them. Verily, Verily, I say unto you, when these things shall be made known unto them of the Father, and shall come forth of the Father, from them unto you; For it is wisdom in the Father that [the Gentiles] should be established in this land, and be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that these things might come forth from them unto a remnant of your seed, that the covenant of the Father may be fulfilled which he hath covenanted with his people, O house of Israel. Therefore, when these works and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter shall come forth from the Gentiles, unto your seed which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity; For thus it behooveth the Father that is should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.” (3 Nephi 21:2-6)

“And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things—it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel. And when that day shall come, it shall come to pass that kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them…Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.” (3 Nephi 21:7-11)

Questions:

-How important is it to be numbered among the faithful members of house of Israel in the last days prior to Christ’s return?

-Does biological relation to the house of Israel amount to much if a person does not align his or her life with the true authority and commandments of the Holy One of Israel?