Sunday, December 20, 2015

Three Purposes of the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is a manifestation of God’s love and reality that He has given to His children in these, the latter days. This holy record was compiled for three main purposes as listed on its title page: “to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (iii).  This remnant of the house of Israel consists of the descendents of Lehi, a prophet brought to the Americas in the beginning of The Book of Mormon. Although the book is centered on this family, it serves as a testament to all mankind that there is a God in Heaven, that His son Jesus Christ lives and that they speak through prophets today.  By reading The Book of Mormon anyone can learn that God has worked mighty miracles for those who follow Him, that God has a covenant with each one of us, and that the Gospel of Christ is for all people.
            One of the great miracles that the Lord consistently performs throughout The Book of Mormon is deliverance.  He warns Lehi and brings him and his family safely out of the city of Jerusalem before it was destroyed.  Nephi and his brothers are saved from the servants of Laban, then Laban and the brass plates are delivered into the hands of Nephi.  The Lord guides Lehi and Ishmael’s families through the wilderness and across the ocean.  Nephi and his children are protected from his murderous brothers as they flee to the land of Nephi and then again under the reign of Mosiah.  The Nephites are repeatedly spared from destruction at the hands of their enemies according to their righteousness.
            The Father also continuously reaches out to His children in the New World through prophets.  This is another of the great things which He does for the people of this earth.  Jacob exemplified the love of God, professing that he and his comrades “did magnify [their] office unto the Lord, taking upon [themselves] the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon [their] own heads if [they] did not teach them the word of God with all diligence” (Jacob 1:19).  Descending from the prophet Lehi, a long line of prophets exhort the Nephites to repent and to come back to the fold of God.  These prophets include Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Mosiah, Benjamin, Abinadi, and Alma.  The Book of Mormon teaches readers that God blesses His children with prophets to restore the power and ordinances of the priesthood and to give relevant revelation to those over whom the prophet has stewardship.
            The third merciful act of God was the missionary work that He set forth.  As Enos relates, “I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God” even though their labors were vain,” (Enos 1:20).  King Noah’s former priest, Alma, was able to convert many whom had previously rejected the gospel through his missionary work in Mosiah 18.  By converting the sons of Mosiah and Alma the younger in Mosiah 27, the Lord provided an avenue through which the Lamanites could hear and accept the gospel.  Through the missionaries of the Lord, Lamoni and many of his subjects were brought back into the fold of God and became a vigilant branch of the Church in Alma 19.  Throughout The Book of Mormon, Heavenly Father reaches out through missionaries to those of His children who have strayed into darkness.  Such repeated acts are characteristic of God’s mercy unto the children of men.
            There are many instances within The Book of Mormon where its authors teach about God’s covenant with Israel.  Explaining the allegory that Lehi had shared with them, Nephi teaches his older brothers “that in the latter days…after the Messiah shall be manifested in body…the remnant of our seed [will] know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord…that they may know how to come unto him and be saved” (1 Nephi 15: 13-14).  At face value it may appear that Heavenly Father loves the Jews more than His other children because He makes such wonderful promises to them.  It is comforting to note that later in his ministry, Nephi teaches his children that the Lord “inviteth to them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white…male and female…and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).  I love that the Lord promises to not deny anyone that comes to Him. This also builds my hope because even a sinner such as I has the potential to be delivered from transgressions through the atoning and enabling grace of Jesus Christ. I know from ancient and modern prophets that as a descendant of Abraham (both literally and through adoption) I am entitled to his blessings according to my personal righteousness.  To know that I can be saved brings me hope.
            This principle reiterates throughout The Book of Mormon in God’s promise that “inasmuch as [His children] shall keep [His] commandments, [they] shall prosper” (1 Nephi 2:20).  Developing a theme, God’s covenant that He will bless those who follow Him is mentioned in the books of first and second Nephi, Omni, Mosiah, and Alma.  This illustrates that the prophets of The Book of Mormon were familiar with the covenants of the Father with Israel.
            In The Book of Mormon, the most direct yet symbolic expression of God’s covenant with the children of Israel is manifest in Jacob 5.  Jacob recites the words of the ancient prophet, Zenos, in which Israel is compared to a tame olive tree.  The owner of this tree, the Lord, consistently nourishes it as it grows.  However, the tree begins to decay as it ages, alerting the master that action must be taken in order to preserve the life of the tree.  Similarly, Jehovah was aware of the spiritual stagnation of the growing civilization of Israel.  As a punishment, He soon decides to scatter the house of Israel throughout the world; the Lord of Zenos’ allegory plucks tender branches from the old olive tree to graft throughout the expanse of his vineyard.  These grafts are nurtured by the roots of the wild trees as the wild grafts (which replace the tender branches of the old tree) are strengthened by the roots of the original tree (these roots symbolize the covenants that God made with His children).  It is crucial to the purpose of the Book of Mormon to note that the children of Lehi are also represented by these tender branches as they are of the house of Israel. 
Mixing the children of Israel with the peoples of the Gentiles strengthens both parties, thereby allowing the covenant of the Lord to extend to all of the peoples of the earth.  The lineage of Israel carries the Gospel of Christ throughout the world, and those possessing the blood of this lineage are better able to recognize truth.  With this in mind, Jehovah pays close attention to the actions and works of His children, seeking to preserve those who choose to obey His commandments and bring to pass much righteousness.  Similarly, the allegory teaches that the Lord of the vineyard desires to nourish and keep the trees which produce good fruit as opposed to the undesirable wild fruit produced by the corrupted trees.  He exhibits patience and hope in the progress and potential of his trees by continuing to spare them a little longer while fertilizing, aerating, and pruning them. 
Relevant to the children of Lehi, the young branch mentioned in Jacob 5:24 represents the Nephites and Lamanites because it brings forth tame and wild fruit.  Eventually, the wild aspects of the tree dominate, overpower, and kill the tame part of the tree.  Nephi foretells of such conquest by the Lamanites in 1 Nephi 12.  Yet, the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel manifests itself in the following chapter, when the truths of Christ’s gospel will be brought forth “unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of [Nephi’s] brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered…that the records of the prophets…and apostles of the Lamb are true” (1 Nephi 13:39).
Giving hope to the children of Israel in ancient times as well as today, Zenos prophesies of the gathering of scattered Israel in the fullness of times.  In verse 52 of Jacob 5, the Lord of the vineyard begins the process of restoring the interspersed tame branches back to the original tree.  This symbolic rendezvous of the lost tribes of Israel is brought about by servants called through the prophet in verse 61; these servants represent the missionaries called to serve throughout the world.  The fact that this prophesy is currently being fulfilled brings me hope because this means that the time of Christ’s second coming is approaching.
Like the Bible, the overarching purpose of The Book of Mormon is to convince all mankind that Jesus is in fact the Christ.  Throughout its pages, the authors of The Book of Mormon testify of the divinity of Christ over and over again.  One of the greatest chapters in support of this purpose is 2 Nephi 2.  Lehi admonishes his children to stay true to the commandments of the Lord.  Through his words to his son Jacob we learn that Jacob has “beheld in [his] youth [Christ’s] glory,” by which Jacob learned “that in the fullness of time [Christ] cometh to bring salvation unto men” (2 Nephi 2: 3-4).  Lehi wants his children to remember that “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth” (2 Nephi 2:6).  Continuing to teach of Christ’s essentiality in the plan of salvation, Lehi continues to preach that “no flesh can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise” (2 Nephi 2:8).  Through this verse the reader learns that it is only through Christ’s atoning sacrifice that anyone can live with God.  Additionally, the reader is taught that because Christ was resurrected by the Spirit that resurrection is possible for mankind as well.  Salvation is available to the sinner because “they that believe in him will be saved” (2 Nephi 2:9).
Testifying of Christ’s identity and role in the creation, Nephi teaches his children that “if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ” (2 Nephi 11:7).  The reader can know that The Book of Mormon is a testament of Christ when Nephi shares “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ…that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).  Because The Book of Mormon was organized and preserved to encourage all peoples to accept Christ as their savior, Nephi teaches those who follow the Law of Moses that this law was given to inspire the children of Israel to “look forward unto that life which is in Christ” (2 Nephi 25:27).  In addition to teaching the Jews, Nephi proclaims “it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God” (2 Nephi 26:12).
2 Nephi 31 constitutes the purest depiction of the Gospel of Christ as spoken through a prophet.  Nephi prophesies of John the Baptist baptizing the Son of God and explains why Christ was baptized.  Nephi continues to teach that if readers will “follow the Son…with real intent, repenting of [their] sins… [and] take upon [them] the name of Christ, by baptism…then shall [they] receive the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 31:13).  The prophet further stipulates “he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved” (2 Nephi 31:15).  By outlining the steps a journeyer must take in the path to Christ, The Book of Mormon simultaneously enables its readers to gain a testimony of the truthfulness of Christ’s word through the power of the Holy Ghost.  Heavenly Father also promises that if readers will “press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end” they will “have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).
The reader learns to trust in the Savior, for “the words of Christ will tell [all mankind] what [they] should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).   Nephi counsels readers from “all the ends of the earth” that if they “believe in Christ [they] will believe” in the words of The Book of Mormon, “for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good” (2 Nephi 33:11).  Indeed, Jacob clarifies that “none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ” (Jacob 7:11); therefore, the reader can trust that the goal of each Book of Mormon prophet is to bring others closer to Christ.
Under King Benjamin, the Nephites proclaim their desire to “apply the atoning blood of Christ that [they] may receive forgiveness of [their] sins, and [their] hearts may be purified.”  They do so because they “believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men” (Mosiah 4:2).  Even from the common people of The Book of Mormon, the reader learns of Christ’s role in the creation as well as His condescension to mortality.  Benjamin exhorts all who will hear him to “believe in God; believe that he is,…that he created all things…that he has all wisdom, and all power…[and] that man doth not comprehend all things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9).  He does so because “there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of” (Mosiah 4:8).
The prophet with whom I can most closely relate within The Book of Mormon is Alma the Younger.  His humble endurance through the repentance process enabled him to grasp the magnitude of Christ’s atonement.  After prophesying of the birth of the Savior, Alma teaches readers that Christ will “go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” as well as “the sicknesses of his people.”  The Book of Mormon elaborates that Christ endures this agony “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” and that He will “take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:11-13).  Through these verses in particular, the Spirit has awakened a knowledge within my heart that Christ truly knows me and has born my burdens.  I know that Christ above all other beings knows the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pains of life.  There is no temptation with which He is unfamiliar which brings solace to my heart (He knows what its like to be attracted to someone to whom His society/religion forbid Him from loving in a romantic fashion).  No other book has the capability of manifesting such understanding to the hearts of man than The Book of Mormon.
Our Heavenly Father knew that His children would face confusion, temptation, afflictions, and isolation in this life.  To give them hope that He would honor His covenants with them, God orchestrated The Book of Mormon.  By revealing the wonderful miracles which He wrought among their ancestors, Heavenly Father connects with Lehi’s modern descendants, as well as with His other children.  Through this canon of holy writ, its authors effectively testify of Christ’s divinity while supporting the Bible.  This, above all, is the purpose of The Book of Mormon: to invite all men and women everywhere to come unto Christ and partake of His salvation.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Free Song from the BYU Men's Chorus!

Hey Folks!
All of us members of the BYU Men's Chorus have been asked to change lives through sharing recordings of our songs with the world. We just added our newest song, "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul," which is available to download for FREE! 

I sang this song as a solo in each of my areas, either at baptisms or in sacrament meeting.  It is the embodiment of my sentiment toward the Savior.  

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this song, the lyrics are as follows:

"Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow'r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.
Never can I repay thee, Lord,

But I can love thee. Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect thy will.

O'errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love,
And fit me for the life above."

This is a great opportunity to share the gospel as well as to uplift the lives of those you love. It's our Christmas gift to the world, and we want everyone to have a chance to listen!