The prophet-historian, Mormon, reflecting on a period of war and death among the Nephites, teaches of spiritual cause and effect and how death is a defining moment for individuals passing into the eternities.
“…In one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one. For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey…” (Alma 3:26-27)
-How many carefully account for the spiritual wages they are earning based on the spirit they are obeying? Is it possible to take account of one’s spiritual status?
-Why would a person choose to obey a bad spirit? Is the temptation to sacrifice long-term happiness for short-term pleasure part of the equation?
-Can Satan and his spiritual servants make evil look good and good look evil?
-How much of what passes as good in our time and culture is actually evil and vice versa?
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After a group of people rebelled against the Nephites and separated from them (and the Lord’s church that was central to the Nephite’s culture) the estranged group began marking their foreheads with red. The mark they placed on their heads fulfilled an earlier prophecy that God would curse and mark all who separated themselves from the Nephites who were striving to follow the Lord and live righteously. Interestingly, the rebellious group marked themselves instead of God directly marking them.
“…They had come out in open rebellion against God; therefore it was expedient that the curse should fall upon them. Now I would that ye should see that they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doeth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation.” (Alma 3:18-19)
-Are those who are coming out in open rebellion against God, in our time, marking themselves?
-Is it inevitable that these markers manifest themselves every time a group fights against God and His people?
-Do people generally like to mark their territory, figuratively speaking, when it comes to their beliefs and values? Is there something satisfying about expressing one’s position in a physical or visual manner?
-Do those who are true followers of the Lord have markers? Are those markers visual or behavioral? (see John 13:35 and Doctrine and Covenants 50:24)
When King Mosiah is enacting measures to transition the Nephite government from a monarchy to a more democratic form, he adds an important point of warning.
“…If the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.” (Mosiah 29:27)
-Is the voice of the people choosing iniquity in the United States? Is the voice of the people choosing iniquity in other democratic nations?
-Is the land that has hitherto been visited with great destruction all the Americas? Or is it a specific region within the Americas?
The Lord, speaking to Alma (the leader of the Nephite church), declares that only those who truly repent are numbered among His people.
“…Whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people.” (Mosiah 26:32)
-How popular are churches that consistently call people to true and sincere repentance?
-How likely is it that God’s true church will be a widely-accepted church?
-Does repentance require work? Does any real growth occur without work?
Alma, the Nephite prophet, was troubled by members of the Lord’s church who were committing sin and not repenting. He was hesitant to take action because he didn’t want to judge them wrongly in the Lord’s eyes, but felt that action needed to be taken. As he prayed, the Lord revealed the following to him:
“…He that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive. For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive. For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand. For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand.” (Mosiah 26:21-24)
“And it shall come to pass that when the second trump shall sound then shall they that never knew me come forth and shall stand before me. And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed. And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them; and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day.” (Mosiah 26:25-28)
-Is the Book of Mormon the Lord’s voice?
-Is the Bible the Lord’s voice?
-Is it possible to heed some of the Lord’s words but ignore others?
-Does the phrase “never knew me” in the passage above suggest that only those who never listened to the Lord’s voice will “depart into everlasting fire?” How rare is it to find a person who never listened to the voice of the Lord?
-How important is it to strive to listen to all that the Lord speaks versus listening selectively?
The Nephites following the prophet Alma were required to endure captivity for a time, but the Lord helped them through their trials and declared the following to them:
“…Ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” (Mosiah 24:14)
-Can a person come to know God more from the trials he or she passes through than from times of ease?
-Are greater blessings granted to those who are keeping the commandments and following the voice of the Spirit?
After finding a new place to settle, a group of Nephites — who were keeping God’s commandments and living peaceably with one another – were taken captive by their enemies the Lamanites. The prophet Mormon (who abridged and made important observations within the text of the Book of Mormon) describes why the Lord allowed this to happen.
“…The Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Mosiah 23:21-22)
-Does anyone escape chastening by God? Or, is this life constructed by God to chasten?
-Are the people of God (those who have the true priesthood and are striving to love God and their neighbor as themselves) more likely to be chastened? Or, are they less likely to be chastened?
-Does trust in God, through trial, purify and sanctify the soul?
After the Nephite people request a king, the man who the majority want to be their king (Alma) refuses. He explains why based on a specific commandment received from the Lord.
“Thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another or one man shall not think himself above another.” (Mosiah 23:7)
-What causes people to think they are better than others?
-How tempting is it for a person to seek confirmation that he or she is better than others?
-Does any good come from thoughts and actions based on a sense of superiority (or from establishing positions in social structure that signal superiority)?
-Since we are only saved by the grace of God through Christ’s loving Atonement, what position do we put ourselves in when we aren’t careful to extend the same kind of love to others (in our thoughts and actions) as Christ has extended to us?
Those who led the congregations of Christ’s people among the Nephites were not paid monetarily or with physical goods for their service. Rather, they supported themselves and their own families, and then also labored to serve the Lord and His people. This separation of financial incentive from spiritual service increased the grace and Spirit of God in their lives and they were able to teach with greater power and authority for the benefit of their followers.
“…The priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.” (Mosiah 18:26)
-Can you see how mixing financial incentive and church (or synagogue) service could easily dilute the spiritual power of those who lead congregations?
-How many are willing (or able) to serve for the grace of God and forgo financial reimbursement for their service?
A second time, during his sermon to the Nephite people, King Benjamin teaches about each individual’s true standing with God.
“…Ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are.” (Mosiah 2:34)
-Is it easy for you to wrap your mind around what Benjamin is teaching about each individual’s debt to God? Or, is indebtedness to God a foreign concept for you?
-Is it demeaning to be in a position in indebtedness in relation to Deity? Has God given all He has to us grudgingly? Or, is His giving inspired by perfect and eternal love?
-If joy is tied to connecting with the truth, does Benjamin’s teaching give you insight into why those who are grateful find greater joy in life?
-What does it mean to give all that you have and all that you are to God?