I the Lord Am a Jealous God

The Book of Mormon record reemphasizes the importance of the Ten Commandments given by God to the Israelite people. The Nephite prophets who taught their people and recorded scripture drew on a record called the Brass Plates (which were brought from Jerusalem) that contained most of writings of the prophets found in the Old Testament up to 600 B.C., including the book of Exodus containing the Ten Commandments.

Posts for the next several weeks will focus on a section of Mosiah chapter 13 that presents the Ten Commandments in wording very similar to the King James Translation (but with some interesting variations). Words and punctuation in italic show instances where the wording and punctuation is different from the King James version.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of things which are in heaven above, or which are in the earth beneath, or which are in the water under the earth. And again: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” (Mosiah 13:12-14 – Compare with Exodus 20:4-6)

Questions:

-Why does God care if the people who have covenanted to follow Him choose to follow other gods?

-What does the word — that the translators of the King James version of the Bible decided to translate as “jealous” – say about God’s concern and emotions towards those who have proclaimed themselves as His? Would a God without body, parts, or passions be capable of this kind of feeling?

-When the Lord speaks of those who hate Him in these verses, is He referring to those who have received His covenants and the Holy Spirit and then still rejected Him as their God. Or, is he referring to those who hate him merely as an idea or as someone else’s God?

Ye Will Not Have a Mind to Injure One Another, But to Live Peaceably

King Benjamin teaches how those who have the love of God in their hearts will treat one another.

“And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due. And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.” (Mosiah 4:13-16)

Questions:

-Is it possible to truly love God without the help of the Holy Spirit? Is it possible to comprehend who God is without the witness of the Holy Spirit?

The Natural Man is an Enemy to God

King Benjamin teaches that the default path of least resistance in life (e.g. letting genetics and the weight of a materialistic worldview have full sway in one’s life) sets a soul in opposition to God. But, there is a remedy…

“…The natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Jesus Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19)

Questions:

-How easy is it to yield to the enticement of the Holy Spirit and overcome the natural man?

-Does overcoming the natural man occur suddenly? Or, is it usually a gradual process?

O Be Wise: What More Can I Say?

Jacob teaches what it means to be spiritually wise.

“Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you? Know you not that if you will do these things, that the power the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ, will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God? And according to the power of justice, for justice cannot be denied, ye must go away into that lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever, which lake of fire and brimstone is endless torment. O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life. O be wise: what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:8-12)
Questions:

-Do you believe the Spirit testifies of the reality of Christ’s redemptive power to every person’s heart that hears of Him and His Father’s plan of salvation?

-How serious are the consequences when the testimony of the Spirit is quenched?

-Was Jacob speaking to a group of people who were saturated in opportunities to receive the Spirit (a social environment where the testimony of Christ was a constant presence)?

-Would someone who had far less exposure to the testimony of the Spirit be open to the same depth of consequence as those to whom Jacob was speaking?

-As you read the scriptural message above, what thought processes lead you to quench the Spirit? What thoughts lead you to receive the Spirit? Can you feel the ebb and flow of the Spirit in proportion to your openness to the message versus the thoughts that close your heart to the message?

-Did Jacob believe in a literal lake of fire and brimstone? Or, is he using a metaphor for representing eternal spiritual loss?

How Blessed Are They Who Have Labored Diligently in His Vineyard

The Earth is the Lord’s vineyard and souls that have yielded to the enticing of the Holy Spirit and become true followers of His Son, Jesus Christ, are the desired fruit. One last harvest will occur in the last days before Christ’s return.

“…The day that he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh. And how blessed are they who have labored diligently in his vineyard; and how cursed are they who shall be cast out into their own place! And the world shall be burned with fire.” (Jacob 6:2-3)

Questions:

-Do you see this last harvest occurring in our world today?

-Is the wheat being separated from the tares as described in Christ’s parable? (see Matthew 13:25-30)

-Will the world be burned by literal fire according to this prophecy?

-Is the unveiled presence of God like a burning fire to all that is corrupt?

No Man Knoweth of God’s Ways Save It Be Revealed unto Him

Jacob teaches that revelation is essential to begin to understand God’s ways.

“Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.” (Jacob 4:8)

Questions:

-How much false belief about God has come into being through the ages due to men and women relying on their intellect more than on revelation from God himself?

-Based on Jacob’s teachings, is a lifetime long enough to understand God intellectually?

-Can the Holy Spirit testify to one’s heart what one’s mind cannot yet understand (so it is possible to develop a meaningful relationship with God within a lifetime)?

-If someone despises the idea of receiving divine revelation, how likely is he or she to gain an understanding of who God really is?

All the Holy Prophets Had a Hope of Christ’s Glory Before His Coming

The Nephite prophets, including Jacob, had a clear understanding of Christ’s central role in the Father’s plan hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. Jacob explains that this was true of all true prophets who lived before Christ.

“…We knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us. Behold they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name and also we worship the Father in his name.” (Jacob 4:4-5)

Questions:

-If all of mankind’s hopes rest on Christ’s redemptive power, how likely would it be that the Holy Spirit testified of Christ to all the true prophets who came before Christ?

There Are Many That Harden Their Hearts against the Holy Spirit

Nephi felt that he could communicate God’s word through speech better than he could through writing, because the witness of the Spirit could more easily be dismissed or ignored by those who would read his words than by those who could hear him speak.

“And now I, Nephi, cannot write all things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.” (2 Nephi 33:1-2)

Questions:

-What causes a person to harden his or her heart against the Holy Ghost?

-Are many hearts hardened against the Book of Mormon…even the hearts of those who have never read it?

-Do you feel the witness of the Holy Ghost testifying of the truth of the Book of Mormon as you read it?

-How many read the Book of Mormon with a hardened heart and, consequently, block the witness of the Holy Spirit?

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

“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. …

“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening and say in our manner and expression, like Samuel of ancient times, ‘Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth.’ (1 Sam. 3:10.)” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53).

Teachings of the Seventy

“The heart is a tender place. It is sensitive to many influences, both positive and negative. It can be hurt by others. It can be deadened by sin. It can be softened by love. Early in our lives, we learn to guard our hearts. It is like we erect a fence around our hearts with a gate in it. No one can enter that gate unless we allow him or her to.

“In some cases the fence we erect around our hearts could be likened to a small picket fence with a Welcome sign on the gate. Other hearts have been so hurt or so deadened by sin that they have an eight-foot (2.5-m) chain-link fence topped with razor wire around them. The gate is padlocked and has a large No Trespassing sign on it. …

“… The condition of our hearts directly affects our sensitivity to spiritual things. Let us make it a part of our everyday striving to open our hearts to the Spirit. Since we are the guardians of our hearts, we can choose to do so” (Gerald N. Lund, “Opening Our Hearts,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 33, 34).

Ye Must Pray Always

Nephi teaches about the sacred power of prayer to consecrate action taken with a sincere desire to serve God.

“…If ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” (2 Nephi 32:8-9)

Questions:

-Is it easy to see prayer as being ineffectual if you are measuring outcomes by whether God is doing what you want Him to?

-How often is your will different than God’s will?

-Have you ever thought of prayer as a way to ask God’s blessing on the actions you take with a sincere desire to serve Him? How often would this kind of prayer be ineffectual?

-When it comes to the welfare of our souls, would God ever dismiss our best efforts to do His will when coupled with a prayer that the efforts will be in line with His will and consecrated in His eyes?

-How does the Atonement of Jesus Christ allow the good we do (in our imperfect efforts) to be treasured up in heaven by the Father?

-Can you see why evil spirits strive to diminish the importance of prayer in our hearts and minds (so that the precious connection with God and His will is also diminished)?

-Unless we are willfully doing things that we know are wrong, is there anything we do that shouldn’t be performed “unto the Lord?”

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

We should pray frequently. We should be alone with our Heavenly Father at least two or three times each day—‘morning, mid-day, and evening,’ as the scripture indicates. (Alma 34:21.) In addition, we are told to pray always. (See 2 Ne. 32:9; D&C 88:126.) This means that our hearts should be full, drawn out in prayer unto our Heavenly Father continually. (See Alma 34:27.)” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson [2014], 52).

“No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creator. There can never be a mechanical or electronic failure when we pray. There is no limit on the number of times or how long we can pray each day. There is no quota of how many needs we wish to pray for in each prayer. We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and any place” (James E. Faust, “The Lifeline of Prayer,” Ensign, May 2002, 59).

“His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. Hence, you should find periods of quiet time to recognize when you are being instructed and strengthened” (Richard G. Scott, “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 9).

“If any of us has been slow to hearken to the counsel to pray always, there is no finer hour to begin than now. William Cowper declared, ‘Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees’ [‘Exhortation to Prayer,’ in Olney Hymns]” (Thomas S. Monson, “A Royal Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 61).

Teachings of the Seventy:

“It is as tragic to think we are too sinful to pray as it is for a very sick person to believe he is too sick to go to the doctor!” (J. Devn Cornish, “The Privilege of Prayer,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 103).

The Lord God Giveth Light unto the Understanding

Nephi describes some of the qualities of God’s communication with His children on earth:

“…My soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3)

Questions:

-Why does God use plainness in His interactions with mortals? If He didn’t use plainness, would only those with “superior” intellects be able to understand God? As it is, is there anyone who cannot understand God’s messages?

-How are God’s messages conveyed to you? Do others receive His messages differently?

-How does God give light unto the understanding?

-Why does God use the specificity of the earth’s languages rather than only relying on the ineffable witnesses of the Spirit?