Whosoever Heareth These Sayings of Mine and Doeth Them, I Will Liken Him unto a Wise Man, Who Built His House upon a Rock

Jesus Christ taught the descendants of Lehi in the Americas (who were of the house of Israel) many of the same gospel principles He taught to His Jewish disciples in the Old World. The teachings as recorded in the book of Matthew, found in the New Testament, known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 and 7) were again taught by the Savior when he visited Lehi’s descendants after His resurrection.

The passage below shows the words from verse 24 through 27 of the King James version of Matthew 7 and the comparable verse from 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

“Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock—And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand—And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (3 Nephi 15:24-27)

Questions:

-How are these verses tied to Lehi’s dream? Specifically, the fall of the great and spacious building as his son Nephi saw it (1 Nephi 11:35-36)?

Great Power and Authority to Preach Only Comes if Given by God

The brother missionaries, Nephi and Lehi, had miraculous results when preaching the word of God because they had authority from God to preach and then spoke the words that God gave them through the Holy Spirit.

…They did preach with great power, insomuch that they did confound many…dissenters…insomuch that [the dissenters] came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance…And…Nephi and Lehi did preach…with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them. (Helaman 5:17-18)

Questions:

-Who has a line of priesthood authority to preach that goes directly back to Jesus Christ?

-How does one rely on the Holy Spirit so that the words spoken, when preaching, are given by God?

Tender, Chaste, and Delicate Feelings Are Pleasing unto God

Before dying, Nephi instructed his younger brother Jacob to continue the sacred record he had begun. Jacob was also called to be a spiritual leader and recorded his teachings to the Nephites at a time when they were beginning to fall prey to wickedness. At the beginning of his speech, he regrets needing to clearly address the sins of some of the people—whose hearts were hardening—in the presence of many of the people whose delicate feelings would be troubled. He concludes his thought by specifically declaring the truth that tender, chaste and delicate feelings are pleasing to God.

“…It grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God.” (Jacob 2:7)

Questions:

-Why are delicate feelings pleasing to God?

-Does the callousness of the fallen world tend to break down tender and delicate feelings if one is not vigilant? How does the Spirit of God help one maintain a tender heart despite experiencing environments in the fallen world that can often be cruel and insensitive?

-How is chastity tied to maintaining a tender heart that is capable of delicate feeling?

-Did the Father send the Lamb with the most tender heart (capable of the most delicate feeling) to work out the Atonement for His children? Was Christ’s infinite ability to feel and care a key aspect of His ability to complete His mission as our Savior?

I Speak unto You as the Voice of One Crying from the Dust

As the prophet Nephi records his final words he testifies in no uncertain terms that he has been commanded by God to write all that he has written.

“And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come. And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day. For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.” (2 Nephi 33:13-15)

Questions:

-What does it mean to partake of the goodness of God?

-What would prevent a person from partaking of the goodness of God?

-What does it mean to respect the words of the Jews, Nephi’s words, and the words of the Lamb of God?

-How many in the world have had a prolonged enough exposure to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and other scripture to make a meaningful decision about the respect they have for them?

-Is the condemnation Nephi refers to reserved for those who have a witness from the Holy Ghost that these scriptures are of God and then still reject them?

Ye Shall Know I Have Been Commanded of Christ to Write These Things

As Nephi nears the end of his record, he reemphasizes that true hope comes through being reconciled to Christ and being a faithful disciple to Him thereafter. He also testifies that the words he has written are the words of Christ and that each person will know this no later than the Last Judgment.

I have charity for the Jew—I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came. I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.” (2 Nephi 33:8-9)

“And now my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.” (2 Nephi 33:10-11)

Questions:

-If the Book of Mormon is God’s word, how important is it to receive its truths now rather than finding out it is God’s word at the Day of Judgment?

-How many are willing to sincerely search for an answer concerning the Book of Mormon’s authenticity and divine mandate rather than dismissing the possibility out of hand?

No Man Will Be Angry at The Words Which I Have Written Save He Shall Be of the Spirit of the Devil

Nephi affirms that his words will be especially powerful to his and his father’s descendants. He also recognizes the possibility that some will be angered by his writings but testifies that those who are angry have been lulled, to one degree or another, into a spiritual state that is antithetical to God.

“…I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end which is eternal life. And it speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth; wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil.” (2 Nephi 33:4-5)

Questions:

-Can the Lord make the good things you strive to do—in your weakness—strong?

-When your will is in line with God’s, what is the limit of the strength He will provide to you to move forward?

-How difficult is it to align your will with God’s will?

-Why is the truth harsh to some and consoling to others?

Teachings of the Seventy

“[We] must choose to open our hearts to the divine reality of the Savior. … God does not force us to believe. Instead He invites us to believe by sending living prophets and apostles to teach us, by providing scriptures, and by beckoning to us through His Spirit. … The decision to believe is the most important choice we ever make. It shapes all our other decisions” (“Choose to Believe,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 38).

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).

They Will Not Search Knowledge, Nor Understand Great Knowledge, When It Is Given unto Them in Plainness

After teaching about the first principles and ordinances of the gospel—including faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end—Nephi laments the tendency in many to “look past” or ignore the greatest and most basic truths.

“…I am left to mourn because of the unbelief and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2 Nephi 32:7)

Questions:

-How many lack spiritual knowledge because of unbelief, wickedness, and prideful stubbornness?

-Why do we often make things more complicated than they need to be when it comes to our spiritual welfare?

If Ye Enter in by the Way, and Receive the Holy Ghost, It Will Show You All Things What Ye Should Do

Nephi declares that God grants spiritual understanding, to those who sincerely seek it, through the Holy Ghost.

“…After I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark. For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:4-5)

Questions:

-What is the best way to ask for spiritual understanding? Is it as simple as saying a sincere prayer and asking God?

-How many who read the teachings contained within the Book of Mormon are willing to take this step to sincerely pray for understanding and seek a confirmation of the truth from the Holy Ghost?