Tag Archives: Challenge

#BOMSummer DAY 77, Mormon 8-Ether 1: “The Fulness of the Gospel”

Mormon 8-Ether 1,

:

The Savior declared that the Book of Mormon contains “the fulness of [His] everlasting gospel.” How did He define the gospel? The resurrected Lord taught, “This is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.”

Then He amplified that one-sentence definition: “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me.”

This unique mortal mission of the Lord—the gospel as He defined it—we know as the Atonement. The fulness of the gospel, therefore, connotes a fuller comprehension of the Atonement. This we do not obtain from the Bible alone. The word atonement, in any of its forms, is mentioned only once in the King James Version of the New Testament. In the Book of Mormon, it appears 39 times! The Book of Mormon also contains more references to the Resurrection than does the Bible. (“A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Nov. 1999.)

#BOMSummer DAY 76, Mormon 5-7: “Love. Healing. Help. Hope.”

Mormon 5-7,

:

The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth. If we think of this as a form of spiritual destruction, it may cast light on another latter-day prophecy. Think of the heart as the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values; then consider Jesus’s declaration that in the last days “men’s hearts [shall fail] them.”

The encouraging thing, of course, is that our Father in Heaven knows all of these latter-day dangers, these troubles of the heart and soul, and has given counsel and protections regarding them.

In light of that, it has always been significant to me that the Book of Mormon, one of the Lord’s powerful keystones in this counteroffensive against latter-day ills, begins with a great parable of life, an extended allegory of hope versus fear, of light versus darkness, of salvation versus destruction—an allegory of which Sister Ann M. Dibb spoke so movingly this morning.

In Lehi’s dream an already difficult journey gets more difficult when a mist of darkness arises, obscuring any view of the safe but narrow path his family and others are to follow. It is imperative to note that this mist of darkness descends on all the travelers—the faithful and the determined ones (the elect, we might even say) as well as the weaker and ungrounded ones. The principal point of the story is that the successful travelers resist all distractions, including the lure of forbidden paths and jeering taunts from the vain and proud who have taken those paths. The record says that the protected “did press their way forward, continually [and, I might add, tenaciously] holding fast” to a rod of iron that runs unfailingly along the course of the true path.4 However dark the night or the day, the rod marks the way of that solitary, redeeming trail.

“I beheld,” Nephi says later, “that the rod of iron … was the word of God, [leading] … to the tree of life; … a representation of the love of God.” Viewing this manifestation of God’s love, Nephi goes on to say:

“I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, … [who] went forth ministering unto the people. …

“… And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; … and they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.”

Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” That phrase—taken from Moroni’s final lines of testimony, written 1,000 years after Lehi’s vision—is a dying man’s testimony of the only true way. (“Safety for the Soul,” Ensign, Nov. 2009)

#BOMSummer DAY 75, Mormon 2-4: “Eyewitnesses of the Lord”

Mormon 2-4,

:

Most books contained in libraries of the world were authored for contemporary readers. And they were generally written for profit, with royalties accruing from successful sales.

Not so with the Book of Mormon. It was written anciently for our day. It reveals the endless Lordship of Jesus Christ in accounts of two ancient American dispensations, preserved for the benefit of us who live in this dispensation of the fulness of times. Certainly no royalties came to its authors. In fact, they paid dearly for their privilege of participation. What motivated them? Their devotion to God! The book’s four major writers—Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, and Moroni—were all eyewitnesses of the Lord, as was its martyred translator, the Prophet Joseph Smith. (“A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Nov. 1999.)

#BOMSummer DAY 74, 4 Nephi-Mormon 1: “The Best Test”

4 Nephi-Mormon 1,

President Ezra Taft Benson:

We must first read it and gain a testimony for ourselves. Men may deceive each other, but God does not deceive men. Therefore, the Book of Mormon sets forth the best test for determining its truthfulness—namely, read it and then ask God if it is true.

Moroni, in the book’s final chapter, issued that divine challenge to every reader in these words:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moro. 10:4).

This, then, is the supreme assurance for the honest in heart—to know by personal revelation from God that the Book of Mormon is true. Millions have put it to that test and know, and increasing millions will yet know. (“A New Witness for Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1984)

#BOMSummer DAY 73, 3 Nephi 27-29: “And Still It Stands”

3 Nephi 27-29,

:

May I refer to a modern “last days” testimony? When Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum started for Carthage to face what they knew would be an imminent martyrdom, Hyrum read these words to comfort the heart of his brother:

“Thou hast been faithful; wherefore … thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.

“And now I, Moroni, bid farewell … until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ.”

A few short verses from the 12th chapter of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Before closing the book, Hyrum turned down the corner of the page from which he had read, marking it as part of the everlasting testimony for which these two brothers were about to die. I hold in my hand that book, the very copy from which Hyrum read, the same corner of the page turned down, still visible. Later, when actually incarcerated in the jail, Joseph the Prophet turned to the guards who held him captive and bore a powerful testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Shortly thereafter pistol and ball would take the lives of these two testators.

As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?

Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” (“Safety for the Soul,” Ensign, Nov. 2009)

#BOMSummer DAY 72, 3 Nephi 22-26: “Commanded by God’s Voice to Testify”

3 Nephi 22-26,

Martin Harris:

I did go in the woods with Joseph Smith … and beheld an angel descend from heaven in a dazzling light of glory. … I saw the gold plates. I saw him turn the leaves over one by one … and I was commanded by God’s voice to testify to all the world what I had seen and heard. (William Pilkington, “A Dying Testimony Given by Martin Harris,” Church History Library. Spelling and capitalization standardized.)

#BOMSummer DAY 71, 3 Nephi 20-21: “A Key to the Holy Prophets”

3 Nephi 20-21

William W. Phelps:

By that book I found a key to the holy prophets; and by that book began to unfold the mysteries of God, and I was made glad. Who can tell his goodness, or estimate the worth of such a book? (Letter from William W. Phelps to Oliver Cowdery, “Letter No. 10,” Messenger and Advocate, Sept. 1835, 178.)

#BOMSummer DAY 70, 3 Nephi 17-19: “Confirms the Teachings”

3 Nephi 17-19

:

The Book of Mormon confirms the teachings of the Old Testament. It confirms the teachings of the New Testament. It restores “many plain and precious things” (1 Ne. 13:28) lost or taken from them (see also 1 Ne. 13:20–42; 1 Ne. 14:23). It is in truth another testament of Jesus Christ.

This year we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the organization of the Church and the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In the Church, much will be written and said to honor him.

As usual, there will be much said and written to discredit him. There always were, are now, and ever will be those who stir into 200-year-old dust, hoping to find something Joseph is alleged to have said or done in order to demean him.

The revelations tell us of “those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them” (D&C 121:16). They face very stern penalties, indeed.

We do not have to defend the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ will defend him for us. Those who reject Joseph Smith as a prophet and revelator are left to find some other explanation for the Book of Mormon.

And for the second powerful defense: the Doctrine and Covenants, and a third: the Pearl of Great Price. Published in combination, these scriptures form an unshakable testament that Jesus is the Christ and a witness that Joseph Smith is a prophet.

And I join the millions of others who have that testimony, and bear it to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. (“The Book of Mormon:Another Testament of Jesus Christ—Plain and Precious Things,” Ensign, May 2005.)

#BOMSummer DAY 69, 3 Nephi 14-16: “The Lord Himself Said”

3 Nephi 14-16,

Elder Neil L. Andersen:

The Lord Himself said the Book of Mormon contains “the fulness of my everlasting gospel” (D&C 27:5; see also D&C 42:12). The Book of Mormon unveils the plan of salvation and “answers the great questions of the soul.”

The lessons of truth in the Book of Mormon are taught in the difficult circumstances of war and oppression, in the sermons of prophets, in the conversations of fathers to sons, and in the Savior’s own words. There is a central theme: “God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people” (Mosiah 15:1). There are those who are seeking: “And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God” (Enos 1:2). There is the constant call to leave our sins behind and step to a higher level: “And it came to pass that I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul; and never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive a remission of my sins. But behold, I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul” (Alma 38:8; emphasis added). And there are the comforting and peace-filled words of the Savior: “Will ye not now return unto me … that I may heal you? … If ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive” (3 Nephi 9:13–14).

The Book of Mormon gently passes its stories and testimonies before us. As we ponder them and pray about them, the Lord reveals to the quiet chambers of our hearts our own need to repent and change. As we covenant with the Lord and make changes in our lives, we feel the power of His Atonement and confirming peace. As our spiritual journey progresses, we feel strengthened by His grace as we confront the difficulties and disappointments of life. An Apostle has said, “When we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures.”

This is the peace of the true doctrine of Christ found in the Book of Mormon. (“The Book of Mormon: The Great Purveyor of the Savior’s Peace,” Ensign, Jan. 2008)

#BOMSummer DAY 68, 3 Nephi 11-13: “A Miraculous Restoration of Spiritual Eyesight”

3 Nephi 11-13

Elder Lynn G. Robbins:

Multiple scientific analyses illustrate the advantages of two eyes over one. I will explore six of those advantages and their spiritual parallels with the Book of Mormon as a second eyewitness of Jesus Christ in restoring spiritual eyesight to the world.

1. Two Eyes Increase the Field of Vision and Enhance Clarity

horizontal field of view

Humans have a maximum horizontal field of view of around 190 degrees with two eyes, approximately 120 degrees of which overlaps or is seen by both eyes. Beyond the converging field of view, each eye also has a peripheral field unique to that eye.

After centuries of plain and precious things being lost, the Bible enjoyed something less than perfect eyesight. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon with its perfect eyesight not only increased the field of spiritual vision but also gave much-needed clarity to the overlapping portion of the two spiritual eyes, or the binocular field of vision—scripturally we call this the law of two witnesses (see Matthew 18:16; Ether 5:4; D&C 6:28).

The overlapping field of vision, or binocular summation, enhances the ability to detect faint objects.3 We see things more clearly as the separate views received in each eye are combined into a single image, giving us a convergence of the visual axis and thus eliminating the “confusion and strife” that so bewildered young Joseph (see Joseph Smith—History 1:8).

The fact that two eyes are better than one is such a universal and self-evident fact that Isaiah couldn’t have chosen a better metaphor for worldwide identification: “the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isaiah 29:18). We hope that those who currently see with just one spiritual eye, the Bible, will recognize the wisdom of not rejecting the Book of Mormon as a second eyewitness of Jesus Christ before they even give it a try. They will discover that “the stick of Judah” and the “stick of Joseph” (Ezekiel 37:19) converge as two eyes synced in perfect and clear unison—an eye-opening experience!

2. Stereopsis—Avoiding Deception

“Binocular vision … allows humans to walk over and around obstacles at greater speed and with more assurance” because of more precise depth perception. An example of this superior depth perception is demonstrated in the 3-D clarity of a stereoscope image over a simple photograph.

stereoscope

In the animal kingdom, two eyes give potential prey stereopsis, or precise depth perception, and the ability to discern 3-D disparities, thus helping it “to break the camouflage of [a potential predator].”

disguised snake

The Book of Mormon provides the world with similar protection by restoring clarity and divine depth perception to the spiritual binocular field, allowing us to avoid Satan’s camouflage and deceptions. He cleverly introduced confusion by blurring the meaning of many biblical passages. The Book of Mormon broke his camouflage with crystal-clear corroboration, “unto the confounding of false doctrines” (2 Nephi 3:12) and the “divid[ing] asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil” (Helaman 3:29).

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) shared this reassuring promise of the Book of Mormon: “There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path.”

3. Seeing around Obstructions

Binocular vision helps a person to see more of, or all of, an object behind an obstruction. This advantage was pointed out by Leonardo da Vinci, who noted that a vertical column obscuring an object might block some or all of the object from the left eye but that the object might yet be visible to the right eye.

binocular vision

A spiritual example of this is found in the Savior’s words to the Judeans: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

Because Jesus did not identify those other sheep, the Jews could not decipher His statement. However, with the additional perspective from the Book of Mormon, that which was hidden became visible: “And verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (3 Nephi 15:21). The result was a clear field of vision with no misunderstanding of what the Savior meant—no more obstacle illusions.

4. The Peripheral Advantages of Each Eye

“Peripheral vision is a part of vision that occurs outside the very center of gaze.” In other words, we are aware of things in the field of vision on which we aren’t actually focused. Part of that field of vision—that which is outside the range of the binocular field, or stereoscopic vision—is unique to each eye.

We are profoundly grateful for the Bible and what it uniquely and magnificently gives us—most important, the history of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

We are also deeply grateful for the Book of Mormon and the 20/20 untainted vision it provides for us, which clarifies the doctrine of Christ and reveals His teachings through the prophets of ancient America and His personal visitation and ministry to the Nephites.

Like two eyes divinely paired, the Bible and the Book of Mormon complement each other, resulting in a spectacular binocular panorama, as well as vistas unique to each.

5. Eliminating Our Blind Spot

We all have a blind spot in our field of vision that is relatively easy to identify. Hold the illustration of the circle and star straight in front of you at arm’s length. Close your left eye and focus your right eye directly on the small circle. With your right eye staring at the circle, slowly begin moving the image toward you. Somewhere around halfway, the star will disappear from the peripheral view.

blind spot demonstration

Surprised? You didn’t know you have a blind spot? Just as your second eye compensates for this blind spot, the Book of Mormon provides a similar benefit to the Bible.

And just as the star vanished before your very eye, Herod had not seen the Bethlehem star and had to ask the Wise Men “what time the star appeared” (Matthew 2:7). It was in his spiritual peripheral blind spot. Only those looking for the star had noticed it.

Today there are many, like Herod, who refuse to look for and see the things of the Spirit. “Wo unto the blind that will not see” (2 Nephi 9:32). Pride also caused the Jews to “[despise] the words of plainness, and … blindness came [to them] by looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14).

One of the sobering in-sights of the Book of Mormon is a forewarning about the universal blind spot of pride, “a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves.”10 It is like bad breath—obvious to everyone but the offender.

“In the premortal council, it was pride that felled Lucifer.”11 It was “the pride of … the Nephites, [that] hath proven their destruction” (Moroni 8:27). It is the proud who will burn as stubble when God cleanses the earth by fire (see Malachi 4:1; 3 Nephi 25:1).

The trailhead of the strait and narrow path is posted with a looming “warning” sign: “BEWARE of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old” (D&C 38:39; emphasis added). The tragic irony is that the “BEWARE” sign itself is usually in the blind spot of the proud. Therefore, “let him that is [proud] learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God, that his eyes may be opened that he may see” (D&C 136:32).

6. The Eye-Brain Connection

anagram

This clever anagram appears to be an accurate equation, but it isn’t entirely correct. It is actually the brain’s imaging system that tells us what our eyes are seeing. The brain creates our dreams by night and interprets what we see by day. Seeing isn’t necessarily believing or seeing correctly. For example: “But though [Jesus] had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him” (John 12:37). The eyes alone are insufficient to foster belief or true seeing.

Just as the brain works in tandem with the eyes, the Spirit works in tandem with the scriptures, which help us see spiritually. Merely reading the scriptures isn’t enough to produce spiritual sight because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

For the Book of Mormon to function as a spiritual eye, we must accept and sincerely follow Moroni’s invitation in Moroni 10:3–5. It is an invitation with a promise that God “will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (verse 4; emphasis added).

Witness and Gratitude

To avoid spiritual blindness, Lehi’s sons risked their lives to obtain the brass plates (see 1 Nephi 3–4). Without the plates, they “would have dwindled in unbelief” (Mosiah 1:5). Today, thanks to the printing press and digital tools, we have easier and quicker access to the scriptures. It makes little difference to Satan, however, whether he keeps people from obtaining them—his strategy in the Dark Ages—or tempts people not to read them—his strategy in the latter days. Either way, his “mists of darkness [successfully] … blindeth the eyes … of the children of men … that they perish and are lost” (1 Nephi 12:17; emphasis added).

Like my daily eye drops, it is only by “continually holding fast to the rod of iron” (1 Nephi 8:30; emphasis added) that we can avoid being blinded by the latter-day mists that are so subtle and prevalent. Whenever a person becomes less active or leaves the Church, it’s almost a certainty that person has stopped reading the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is indeed a marvelous work and a wonder. It is a second eyewitness of Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel, offering all the advantages of a second eye.

May we continually hold fast to the iron rod that we too may be worthy of the Savior’s praise to His disciples: “Blessed are your eyes, for they see” (Matthew 13:16). (“The Eyes of the Blind Shall See,” Ensign, June 2016.)