Saturday, June 4, 2016

The First Eight Verses

And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
—1 Nephi 15:8

In my last post, I discussed the importance of asking questions about scripture. To help illustrate what I mean, here are the first eight verses of the Book of Mormon, together with some questions that come to mind. This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it will at least be instructive. 
 1. I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
Why start with the mention of parentage? What makes them “goodly?” 

Why does Nephi mention that he was taught in the “learning” of his father? What was unique about Lehi’s learning? Does the brief sketch of Lehi’s experiences that follows this introduction help define Lehi’s learning, and “goodly” status? 

Why does Nephi mention both afflictions and favor in his very first paragraph? 

Does Nephi’s great knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God have anything to do with all the “learning” of his goodly parents?
 2. Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
Nephi speaks of the “learning of the Jews.” Is this different than the learning of his father? In 2 Nephi 25:2, Nephi speaks poorly of the Jews and their ways. Why is it important that Nephi also mentioned the Egyptian influence in his father’s language? Does the “language of [Nephi’s] father” mean something more than the written language Nephi etched into the plates?
 3. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.
Nephi twice uses a form of the word, “know.” What does that tell us? Is this something more than belief? Is Nephi offering us conjecture? How does he “know” these things? Is it significant that Nephi is making this record himself, with his own hand? 
 4. For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
Does it matter that Lehi dwelt “at” Jerusalem, rather than “in” Jerusalem? 

How is it possible there were “many” prophets prophesying? Can there be more than one at a time? Is Lehi one of them at this point, or merely one who believes them?

Why was Jerusalem slated for destruction? What does it take for the Lord to get to the point of destroying a city? Is this something more significant than typical wickedness and godlessness? When else has God destroyed people, and why? What does God do before the destruction?
 5. Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.
Why does Nephi mention that Lehi prayed, “as he went forth?” What does that mean? Was this inside Jerusalem, or outside the city wall?

Is it significant that Lehi prayed “with all his heart?” How do I do that?

Lehi prayed in behalf of his people. What does that say about Lehi? What was he trying to accomplish? Can one man really make intercession on behalf of a whole city?
 6. And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.
Why was there a rock before Lehi? What was the rock for? What was Lehi doing there? Did Lehi know something about approaching the Lord that we no longer remember or practice?

Is the pillar of fire similar to the pillar of light Joseph Smith saw, which he also described as a pillar of fire? 

Is this similar to what the Nephites witnessed at Bountiful when the Lord opened the heavens and angels descended in the resulting pillar of fire, to encircle the children? (3 Nephi 17:24)

Is this similar to the event when the Nephite disciples were baptized—when the heavens opened, and angels descended in a pillar of fire? (3 Nephi 19:14)

Is this what happened to Nephi and Lehi in the prison when they were encircled in fire and conversed with angels? (Helaman 5)

Is it significant that each time there’s a fiery corridor mentioned, heavenly beings come through that portal to minister to men on earth? And men looking up through the corridor see into heaven? 

What did Joseph Smith see in the pillar of fire?

Lehi “saw and heard much” when the pillar of fire encircled his altar. What might he have seen? Is it any wonder he had cause to quake and tremble exceedingly? Is this part of Lehi’s “learning” that Nephi took pains to mention in verse 1?

How did Lehi succeed in opening the conduit to heaven? How can I?
 7. And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.
Why did Lehi collapse into bed when he returned home? What is the effect of such glory as he beheld, on mortal flesh?
 8. And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.
What was it about Lehi’s response to the encounter in the pillar that caused the vision to continue when he returned home? Is this similar to Joseph Smith having multiple visions throughout the night and into the next day? 

Where was Lehi taken in his vision? Who did he meet there?

And so here we find ourselves, only eight verses into the Book of Mormon—barely on page 2—with Lehi brought back into God’s presence and appearing before His throne. This is Redemption. This is, in fact, the fulness of the Gospel—shown and demonstrated to us by Lehi, and later by His sons Nephi and Jacob, and his grandson Enos. THIS is the theme of the Book of Mormon, and if you look carefully for it, you’ll see it repeated again and again throughout the book. 

The Book of Mormon was written by those who successfully made the ascent through the fiery corridor into God’s presence. They wrote their experiences so you and I could come to understand the whole point of the Gospel. 

Do we take it lightly? Do we turn away? Do we still pretend these are merely children’s stories and platitudes to teach courage, faith, persistence or obedience? 

Is it any wonder the Lord condemned the whole church for failing to appreciate or even understand what was plainly written in the first eight verses of the most miraculous book in history? 

“Come unto Christ” is not some metaphysical invitation to feel more closeness to Him. It is YOUR invitation to make the same ascent Lehi made; to pray with all your heart, to enter a pillar of fire, to see and hear much, and, having been true and faithful in all things, to be brought to the veil, converse with the Lord, receive the invitation to enter, and stand before the throne of God. 

You and I have received this invitation, engraved in Gold. What shall we do?

…While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us…
—Joseph Smith History 1:68

11 comments:

  1. When I began to read 'Eighteen Verses' by Denver Snuffer I had no idea that most members of the Church in Joseph's day either had not read the book or even believed it to be true. I had no idea that the book was taken SO lightly. It's no wonder the church was under condemnation then and is still today, although I think today the church talks about it more.
    The Book of Mormon is a treasure and I love the way you toss out those questions to make us ponder and think.
    I love 'Beloved Enos', by Denver as well, because in such a short book there also is a man walking back into the presence of God and the depth of Enos is astounding. I had no idea before. Oh and another good book is 'Removing the Condemnation', just started that one.
    You are absolutely correct Adrian, coming to Christ, literally, is all over in that incredible book and it begins 1Nephi 1. And maybe when we have parsed through the Book of Mormon and begin to comprehend that depth then we might have the mysteries of godliness unfolded to our understanding. Maybe we will be given that part which is withheld from us presently.
    I pray we will dig until the treasure of the Book of Mormon is unveiled to us individually and we shall all know the Lord.
    Thank you for this post!

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  2. Oh the irony:

    "New Doctrinal Mastery program is replacing Scripture Mastery for seminary students"

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865655498/New-Doctrinal-Mastery-program-is-replacing-Scripture-Mastery-for-seminary-students.html?pg=all

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    2. After reading Elder Ballard’s commentary about the new doctrinal based Seminary program, I was actually quite impressed and would encourage all to click on the link Adrian posted in the above comment. To me, it shows an increasing awareness by the leadership of the church of the many complex issues church members face today in a world dominated by digital media. I believe the premise behind this shift in teaching is in response to a growing tide of faith crises being expressed by a lay membership which includes a whole slew of well-experienced returned missionaries who have served faithfully and come home with many unanswered questions of their own because they were not prepared appropriately. I definitely think this is a step in the right direction in preparing a new generation of missionaries and young parents in the church to meet the many challenges that lay before them in raising families in this environment. Recognition of the problem, they say, is the first step to recovery.
      As Adrian said, however, this isn’t without a sense of irony because “the road to hell is paved by good intentions.” Through all of the programs and curriculum, the leadership of the church has been and will continually be obliged to support and defend a narrative of church history which always leads to only one conclusion...which is that the current state of the church is in accordance with divine will and that things have unfolded accordingly since the death of Joseph and Hyrum. In my view, it will do little good to restructure church curriculum in response to these issues if we don’t simultaneously allow space for alternative opinions to be expressed and investigated fully without fear of rejection or being cast out of the faith. We need to begin to teach our young people that it is not faithless to possess a different understanding and interpretation of scripture as well as church history which may lead to more than one conclusion. The two strongest pillars of Mormonism, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, will be strong enough to support a structure comprised of varying opinions and beliefs.

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    3. Wow!

      Look at the contrast of this article and the reasoning behind it and what President J. Rueben Clark, Jr. said to religious educators in 1938.

      https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/language-materials/32709_eng.pdf?lang=eng

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    4. An excerpt from President Clark's address:

      "You do not have to sneak up behind this spiritually experienced youth and whisper religion in his ears; you can come right out, face to face, and talk with him. You do not need to disguise religious truths with a cloak of worldly things; you can bring these truths to him openly, in their natural guise. Youth may prove to be not more fearful of them than you are. There is no need for gradual approaches, for “bedtime” stories, for coddling, for patronizing, or for any of the other childish devices used in efforts to reach those spiritually inexperienced and all but spiritually dead."

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    5. In addition to irony might we exclaim too, "oh the hypocrisy"?

      I quote Elder Holland said in a GC talk in April 2003. He was speaking to parents who were "cynical" in their Church views:

      "In this Church there is an enormous amount of room—and scriptural commandment—for studying and learning, for comparing and considering, for discussion and awaiting further revelation. We all learn “line upon line, precept upon precept,” with the goal being authentic religious faith informing genuine Christlike living. In this there is no place for coercion or manipulation, no place for intimidation or hypocrisy.”

      In light of the incredible display by the First Presidency, Council of Twelve and Presidency of the Seventy (at least these three bodies) of coercion, manipulation, and intimidation in the persecution and excommunication of Denver Snuffer, and undoubtedly the Naegles, and Larsens, et al, how can any man who makes a statement like Elder Holland above not hide his face in hypocritical shame?

      From Adrian's link above on the new Scripture Mastery:

      ". . . we felt strongly that we needed to create seminary as a place questions were not only welcome, but embraced. We engage questions, and then we learn how to work with our students to address their questions in a way that not only helps them find answers, if there are answers, but helps them learn a process that equips them as individuals to be spiritually self-reliant," says Elder Clark.

      So despite the purge underway of righteous latter-day saints, our seminary-attending children can expect a safe place to ask questions in seminary when the top leadership PROVES themselves to repeatedly exercise unrighteous dominion on those with different perspectives on Church history who still faithfully follow our Savior?

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    6. Part I:

      The unveiling of the new Doctrinal Mastery initiative has got me thinking about several questions.

      What prompted the initiative? "Alternative interpretations" of "our history, doctrine and practices". In other words, "instant access to virtually everything about the Church" via the Internet, especially viewpoints condemned by the Church, is now in the hands of our youth.

      What is the change? Two things I can see. It is crystal clear the Church desires youth to be asking questions and wants to teach them how to respond to certain questions. "Elder Ballard spoke of the great need for youth to feel comfortable asking questions as they are taught the doctrine of the gospel." And, "The new Doctrinal Mastery program will provide opportunities during seminary classes for students to study, ask questions and teach one another." And, ". . .Doctrinal Mastery is intended to help them. . . be prepared to respond to doctrinal, historical and social questions.” At face value, that seems like a good idea. But let's read between the lines in just a moment.

      The second major change I see is to condition the minds of our youth as to what a "trusted source" is. And, "The curriculum will focus on . . . seeking further understanding through divinely appointed sources."

      Brother Webb said, "This is more about how do you think about information and how do you turn to trustworthy sources. . ." Could a German Stasi have said it any more chillingly?!

      Elder Clark remarkably states the intent is not for students to study the Scriptures, but more precisely to study ten Church-approved topics/ precepts. The scriptures are almost seem to be an afterthought, "“We figured out a way to get the scriptures in there so you still have 25 scriptures that are part of Doctrinal Mastery, but the focus is really on topics — doctrinal topics.”

      The main focus is undoubtedly asking and answering questions and keeping people away from exploring other sources. The article states, "It is the hope, said Brother Webb, that students bring their questions to class and instructors teach students in “a setting of faith with someone they can trust instead of thinking, ‘Well, nobody wants to answer my question so I’ll go look on the internet.’"

      The attempt to steer students to the "divinely appointed sources" for truth is in your face. The last few paragraphs of the article hammer home the key tactic of ". . . [creating] seminary as a place questions were not only welcome, but embraced. We engage questions, and then we learn how to work with our students to address their questions in a way that not only helps them find answers, if there are answers, but helps them learn a process that equips them as individuals to be spiritually self-reliant.” Any chance that the "process" the curriculum will teach will include a heavy dose of, "What do the Brethren say" and to not trust unapproved sources?

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    7. Part II:

      The million dollar question which obviously the Church will not confess the truth of: what is the REAL intent of the change?

      Obviously, with righteous men of God, even true prophets, being persecuted and cast out of the Church, the intent absolutely CANNOT truly be to entertain sincere questions about Church apostasy. Can you imagine seminaries taking weeks to discuss the unlimited evidence of Church apostasy? Would the Church tolerate that?

      Ultimately it looks like seminary is shaping up to become a very effective tool to cleverly identify youth and their families who don't tow the official party line.

      Such tools and tactics are always employed in tyrannies throughout history. Step 1: create a safe environment to share opinions; Step 2: Identify "enemies" and their loyalties (choose ye this day if you will follow the Brethren!); Step 3: attempt to "save" the wayward soul through social and institutional pressure; Step 4: if remediation fails, brand the youth and their family as apostate and shun or excommunicate them.

      We are now witnessing the rolling out of Step 1 above. Think Hitler's Youth Program, without guns and prison. All tyrannies target the youth. From Wiki, "One of [the Stasi's] main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by overt and covert measures, including hidden psychological destruction of dissidents."

      Beware fellow parents. My kids are in seminary. This development is worth monitoring, and taking a peek at the Seminary Training manual. We can go on teaching in private or judiciously at Church, just like Alma did (Mosiah 18:1).

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  3. When I read about the seminary curriculum change, it made me sick to my stomach. That's how God testified to me that it didn't come from Him. This is indoctrination at it's finest. Hitler's Youth indeed.

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