Friday, July 29, 2011

I Nephi 2:16 - Nephi was exceedingly young

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, …”

This will be a short post today, but have you ever thought about this scripture that says "Nephi, being exceedingly young"?  I've often thought that perhaps, just maybe, that exceedingly young age would be about the same age Joseph Smith was when he received the first vision ... Fourteen. 

For me, this puts a whole new perspective on the actions of Nephi as he goes back and forth in the wilderness between Jerusalem and his father's tent.  Can you imagine how his brothers may have felt taking direction from someone who was "exceedingly young."  I'm sure if you are 14 and have older brothers, they wouldn't want to take directions from you.  Can you imagine a 14 year-old young man having to face a man as powerful as Laban?  It just shows me how mature and how much faith Nephi must have had.  I hope we can all have the faith and confidence in the Lord that Nephi had at this "exceedingly young" age.

Friday, July 22, 2011

II Nephi 15:26 – 28 - Modern Missionaries Roar Like Lions

26  And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth; and behold, they shall come with speed swiftly; none shall be weary nor stumble among them.
27  None shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken,
28  Whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion.

Even as I type this I can hear the collective sigh of each one of you saying:  “Not again.  Please, not Isaiah … Anything, but Isaiah.  Now, I don’t pretend to understand everything Isaiah wrote, or even most … okay, maybe even not much; but I want to share with you a few things about this scripture that I think is profound for our day.

Let’s take it a verse at a time … I find that makes it much easier to understand and digest.  I know some of you may be thinking, but if it’s Isaiah you want to read it as fast as you possibly can – Not so.  I think the best way is to read it like you would have to eat an elephant, one bit (or in this case, one verse) at a time.

Starting in verse Twenty-six.  “And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far”.  An “ensign” is a flag that symbolizes a nationality.  I believe what Isaiah is describing here is that in the last days the Lord will show to the world a place where He has gathered His people.

“And will his unto them from the end of the earth.”  Like a snake “hisses” to get attention or to warn its prey, I believe this “ensign” will “hiss” or warn the world..

“And behold, they shall come with speed swiftly: none shall be weary nor stumble among them.”  Again, I believe that this means the Lord will send people throughout the world with great speed and they won’t be tired.”

Verse Twenty-seven reads; “None shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken.”  I believe this means those who come from the Lord’s gathering place will arrive at their destination fresh and energized.

Verse Twenty-eight:  “Whose arrows shall be sharp, and all their bows bent, and their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind, their roaring like a lion.”  I think this could mean that when they arrive they won’t only be energized, they will have be ready for battle and armed with effective weapons.

Okay, now let’s put this all together and see what in the world Isaiah might have been seeing in his vision.

Here’s how I see it.  Isaiah sees that in the last days the Lord will gather His people together in a specific and physical place.  From that place His people will send forth a word of warning to the rest of the world.  As part of that warning He will send messengers throughout the world.  Those messengers will go into the world quickly and will arrive at their destinations fresh and ready to combat the evils of the world with effective and powerful weapons.

I hope you can see where this is going.  I believe in these verses Isaiah is seeing the miraculous missionary effort of our day!  He has already gathered the Saints into Stakes throughout the world.  His ensign has been raised in these Stakes.  From the members of the church the word of warning is going to all the people of the world.  That word of warning comes from the tens of thousands of missionaries who are sent forth each year.  The miraculous part comes in the fact that wherever these missionaries are called, they arrive fresh … even as Isaiah states without a latchet of their shoe broken.  They carry with them the ultimate weapon against evil, the Book of Mormon and they go forth preaching with the roar of a lion!!

Wow!  Can you imagine what a miracle this would have been in Isaiah’s day to travel with such speed around the world and to arrive fresh without sleeping and without so much as a latchet of the shoe being  broken.  In Isaiah’s day just traveling a distance of a few hundred miles would require days of travel and sleep … repairing shoes and clothing that would wear out and break along the way and finally arriving at the place tired, dirty and worn out.  But this isn’t how Isaiah saw the latter-days and it’s not how our missionaries go forth today. 

Our missionaries today leave on jet airplanes and can travel almost anywhere in the world in 24 hours or less.  (Although it did take me more than 24 hours once to travel to Cape Town, South Africa.)  When they arrive in their mission they are dressed in the same suits they wore when they left.  They arrive somewhat fresh (although mostly scared) and they carry with them the message of the restored gospel and the evidence of this great restoration – the Book of Mormon.  They do this to warn the world of the evil that keeps people from drawing closer to the Savior.

This is why I believe Nephi felt it was so important to include this part of Isaiah’s writings in the Book of Mormon … because he, too, could feel the importance of these words as they described the last days.

I think the most impressive part of this message is that both Isaiah and Nephi saw our day and saw the missionary effort going forth.  Here, nearly 2,600 years ago, two of the Lord’s prophets (because the Lord said out of the mouth of two or more witnesses would every word be established) witnessed and testified of the latter-day miracle of the missionary work throughout the world.  They saw you young men flooding the earth with the truth.  They saw you arriving in your fields of labor quickly.  They saw you preaching with the roar of a lion to the people of the world.  They saw how your missionary work would bless the world and bring souls to the Lord.  Isn’t it a wonderful thing to be part of a great prophesy in the last days. 

To you young men – as you prepare to serve your missions, remember it’s the Lord’s work.  Prophets of old have seen our day.  He will help you.  He will bless you.  He knows your message will prepare the world for His second coming.

To you young women – if you don’t serve a mission yourself, be a great example of righteousness to the young mean you know and encourage them to serve with their heart, might, mind and strength.  Let them know that the Lord needs each one of them to take the gospel to the entire world.  Let them know that the Lord will bless those who seek to bring souls to him.

I know that both Isaiah and Nephi saw our day.  I know they saw this great army going forth.  I know you are part of this great army.  I know the Lord knows you and trusts you to serve him and to bring souls to him.  I know if you go forth your life will be blessed beyond measure.  Best of all He has shown us, through His prophets, how everything ends … and you know what?  If you’re on His team … you win.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Word of God Leads to the Love of God - I Nephi 11:25

“And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.” (I Nephi 11:25)

I just love what we learn from Nephi in this scripture.   First of all, in Chapter 11 verse 1 we’re told that Nephi desired to know the things that his father, Lehi, had seen in his vision.  Isn’t that a great lesson … if you desire to know something, ask the Lord.  Now Nephi didn’t just ask, he says he “sat pondering in mine heart.”  Again, Nephi teaches us that the best way to let the Lord answer our desires is to ponder them in our hearts. 

While Nephi was pondering the Spirit of the Lord came to him in a vision and then showed and explained the vision of “The Tree of Life” that his father, Lehi, had seen.  In verse 25 the Spirit of the Lord explains what the rod of iron, word of God, fountain of living waters, and the tree of life all symbolize.  Here’s what I get from this scripture:

The Iron Rod = The word of God.  (Just like we learn in the Primary Song.)
The Tree of Life = The Love of God
The Iron Rod leads to the Tree of Life.
That means “The Word of God leads to the Love of God.” 

Or in other words; if you want to feel the love of God you must read, ponder and pray about the word of God found in the scriptures and study the words of the prophets.  Think about this for a moment … the words of God will help us feel the love of God.   What a great blessing!  Can you imagine how lost we would be without the love of God?  Nephi teaches us a great lesson that to feel that love we need to know God through the scriptures.

Think about some of the greatest questions the world has about God.  Below are a few I think people in the world most want to know and understand.

Who is God?
Does God know me?
Does God have a purpose for my life?
Is there life after death?

A few years ago I was working on a media project for the Church where we asked people in a few cities in the USA as well as in London, England and Sao Paulo, Brazil these very questions to see what people knew about God and His love for us.

The first question we asked was; Who is God?   Here are some of the exact answers we got from the people we interviewed:

Man:                “God to me is unexplainable … it’s an intangible force, energy, light … I really don’t know how to explain it.” 
Man:                “There isn’t any one definite answer to “Who is God?” 
Woman:           “I don’t think that God’s a real person … I think that would be impossible.” 
Man:                “I think that God is a concept, so God is everything and anything … it’s different things for different people.  So for me, it’s more a concept, it’s a force, it’s an energy.  It’s everything and anything in the universe.” 
Man:                “God is kind of a big question mark to me.”
Woman:           “I don’t think God exists for me … he exists for other people, but not for me.” 

We asked some others this question:  Does God Know Me?  Here are the answers to that question.

Man:                “I’m not sure … how can he know me?” 
Woman:           “I think so … I hope so.”  
Man:                “I don’t think that God cares about me.  I’m just a tiny little spec.”
Woman:           “I don’t think I know God, so I don’t know if God knows who I am.”
Woman:           “I couldn’t really say what God thinks of me.”

The next question was:  Does God Have A Purpose for My Life?

Man:                “I don’t know the purpose.  I can’t sit here and tell you I know what the purpose is.  I don’t think anybody does.”
Man:                “Honestly, I feel a little uncertain right now about what my purpose is, I’d say very unsure.”
Woman:           “Does anyone’s life have a purpose … I don’t think so.”
Woman:           “I don’t think you know that until the day you die.”

The final question we asked was:  Is There Life After Death?

Man:                “I don’t know if there’s life after death.  I sure hope so.” 
Woman:           “I don’t know what exactly will happen … I don’t know if we’ll have a body or not.” 
Woman:           “I hope to still exist … somehow.”  
Man:                “There has to be something beyond earth … I don’t know what.”
Woman:           “I don’t believe in life after death.  I think it’s a nice idea but … no.”
Woman:           “I really hope that when you die it’s not ‘game over.’”  
Man:                “What comes next I have a lot of doubts in my mind.” 
Man:                “I don’t know … I wish I did.”

After hearing the answers of these people in different parts of the world I believe I began to understand just how fortunate we are to have the Word of God and the living prophets.  Because of the “Iron Rod” I have answers to those questions and if I were asked these same questions I could answer each one with firm conviction that comes from the Holy Ghost.

Who is God?
“God is my Heavenly Father.  He is a glorified person with flesh and bones.  I lived with Him as a spirit before I came to earth.  He has provided a way for me and my family to return and live with him after this life.”

Does God Know Me? 
“God knows me intimately.  He is concerned about my well-being and happiness.  Because He knows me he has allowed me to have the Holy Ghost as my companion to help me through the challenges of life.  Because He knows me has allowed me to hold His Priesthood which allows me to act and serve in His name here on earth.”

Does God Have a Purpose for My Life? 
“Yes.  His purpose for my life is that I receive a physical body, gain earthly experiences, make covenants, and receive ordinances that will allow me to return to live with Him and my family, forever.”

Is There Life After Death? 
“Yes. Through the atonement, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, God allows every person on earth the opportunity to live after this life forever.  As we show our love by obeying his commandments and making and keeping sacred covenants he promises the opportunity to live with him … in other words, to have “eternal life” which is the greatest of all the gifts of God.”

I know these things because of the “The Word of God” found in the scriptures and through the words of His prophets.  Knowing these things is one of the greatest gifts of love the Lord gives to us in this life.  Truly, like Nephi taught, “The Word of God leads to the Love of God.”  I pray we can all find that incredible love in our lives as we listen to the Lord’s prophets and read and ponder the scriptures … just like Nephi taught.