Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Book of Mormon + Lego = awesomeness.

I've mentioned before how I like blocks.  Including Lego.
It is good stuff.

Well, some other dude decided to build scenes from the Book of Mormon using lego. 
How seriously cool is that?!

Here is the prophet Mormon, abridging the records of his people.
He has a chisel.  And a nice looking helmet. 
We'll see a painting about him later ...


Here is the prophet Lehi, the one who starts the Book of Mormon record by obey God and taking his family out of Jerusalem (read that here and then here). 

Here, he is in a vision he had about the Tree of Life
You can read about that here.


We haven't talked about this man yet - Enos
But we will. 
He will answer our questions about prayer, because as you see him here, he is praying. 
He did so all day and all night ...

This is a classic. 
The story of Ammon, the great missionary, who one day chopped some bad people's arms off. 
We'll get to that story when we review another painting soon ...

Read an interview with the lego dude here.

The Book of Mormon Forum

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Feel free to read or listen to it here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Book of Mormon will answer your questions – part 5.

Most of us have some hard questions in the back of our minds – the kind no one else can really answer for us.  Some are far-reaching questions about the nature of our existence …

Note:  These questions are GOLD.  When chatting with someone, even just casually, and you feel you could offer them guidance, advice, or words of encouragement, the Book of Mormon can be PRICELESS.

How can I balance my family and career?

My advice would be to re-prioritise.  Simple enough?  What do the scriptures say?

In the Book of Mormon, we are taught to lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth (3 Nephi 13:19–24).

It was the Saviour Himself who said these words, as He taught the people AFTER His resurrection.  Yup, He visited His sheep, wherever they were, and taught them the same things.  You can read all about it here – He taught them about the sacrament, how to pray and say the Lord’s Prayer, and set up His church.

And He was teaching His apostles about the temporary nature of earthly treasures.

“Our affections are often too highly placed upon the paltry perishable objects. Material treasures of earth are merely to provide us, as it were, room and board while we are here at school. It is for us to place gold, silver, houses, stocks, lands, cattle, and other earthly possessions in their proper place.

“Yes, this is but a place of temporary duration. We are here to learn the first lesson toward exaltation— obedience to the Lord’s gospel plan.” [1]

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break though nor steal.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Sounds familiar?  Of course it does – the Bible and Book of Mormon teach the same principles!  See Matthew 6:19–21 for where the Saviour the same.

A living Apostle of the Lord, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, has given us insight regarding the treasures we may lay up for ourselves.  He clarifies WHAT to prioritise:

“In light of the ultimate purpose of the great plan of happiness, I believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.” [2]

How can I strengthen my relationship with my spouse?

The Book of Mormon teaches us the doctrine and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Plain and simple.  So it’s not surprising that the Book of Mormon and the Bible overlap and sometimes read the same.

When Jesus Christ visited the Americas (see here) after His resurrection, He ensured all of God’s children were taught the same gospel – the same blueprint for our lives.  Makes sense.  We read about it in 3 Nephi.

At one point, Jesus commands the people to Judge not.  So important for everyone to hear this message, that it was taught and recorded on both continents – see Matthew 7 and 3 Nephi 14.  It is this message that helps answer our question.

Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Any why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother:  Let me pull the mote out of thine eye – and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (3 Nephi 14:1-4)

There is a difference between righteous and unrighteous judgments.

“I have been puzzled that some scriptures command us not to judge and others instruct us that we should judge and even tell us how to do it. But as I have studied these passages I have become convinced that these seemingly contradictory directions are consistent when we view them with the perspective of eternity. The key is to understand that there are two kinds of judging: final judgments, which we are forbidden to make, and intermediate judgments, which we are directed to make, but upon righteous principles. . . .

“First, a righteous judgment must, by definition, be intermediate. . . .

“Second, a righteous judgment will be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest. . . .

“Third, to be righteous, an intermediate judgment must be within our stewardship. . . .

“Fourth, we should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts.” [3]
Jesus then went on to teach ‘the golden rule’ for all mankind:  Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. (3 Nephi 14:12 – see Matthew 7:12)

It is a simple rule expressed in many theologies and ethic codes, one that encompasses “the moral code of the kingdom of God. It forbids interference by one with the rights of another. It is equally binding upon nations, associations, and individuals. With compassion and forbearance, it replaces the retaliatory reactions of ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ [Matthew 5:38].” [4]

These teachings can be found in the Sermon on the Mount – teachings that were also taught in the Book of Mormon. “Christ came not only into the world to make an atonement for the sins of mankind but to set an example before the world of the standard of perfection of God’s law and of obedience to the Father.” His Sermon gives us a glimpse into His character, which was perfect. It is therefore an autobiography of His character and deeds, and thus “a blueprint for our own lives”. [5]

The Book of Mormon Forum

If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, June 1971, 33
[2] Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, Nov. 1993, 75
[3] Dallin H. Oaks, “‘Judge Not’ and Judging,” Ensign, Aug. 1999, 7, 9–10
[4] Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, Nov. 2002, 39
[5] Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living [1973], 55–56

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book of Mormon painting six.

If there was a list of the most significant events in the history of mankind, this would be up there in the top five.  Surely.

Signs were given to God’s children to mark the birth of the Saviour.

In the East, wise men knew a new star would appear to mark the coming birth.  They travelled towards it and found the Messiah, born in lowly circumstances, and offered Him gifts.

In the ancient Americas, they too knew a new star would appear, just as the prophets had said.  They could see the new star, and knew that their Messiah had been born into the world.

Signs were also given to God’s children to mark the death of the Saviour.

In Jerusalem, immediately after Jesus had ‘given up the ghost’ as He hung on the cross, the sky went dark and the earth shook.  In fact, the veil inside the temple suddenly tore from top to bottom.  Graves opened, the earth quaked, and many were afraid of what they had done.  (Matthew 27)

In the ancient Americas, they too experienced the same period of darkness and disaster.  The people had the Old Testament prophesies of the Saviour too, as well as the word of contemporary propheets, and the people began to look with great eartnestness for the sign which had been given.  And it came.  A great and terrible tempest lasted for three hours, with unusually sharp lightnings, damaging the majority of the cities.  The damages was so extensive, as is the record in 3 Nephi 8 (unlike the New Testament accounts).  Then three days of darkness - thick darkness that was so intense that there could not be any light at all.  Clearly this was the same darkness and disaster experienced in Jerusalem.

The people then knew their Messiah, the light and the life of the world had been killed, as the prophets had told.  (3 Nephi 11:11)  They cried out:  O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned our propehts, and cast them out ... the howlings of the people [were so] great and terrible.

During this time of darkness, the body of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, lay in the tomb.  On the day of His Resurrection, after Christ had overcome death, light came again to the people in America, signifying Christ’s victory.

Then, as if piercing the darkness, these people heard a voice coming from the heavens.

Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him. (3 Nephi 11:7)

Jesus Christ Appears unto the Nephite People
Arnold Friberg

And … they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them. …

He stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:

Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. (3 Ne. 11:8–10)

How would you have responded if you had been there?

Consider the impact on the lives of those who received a spiritual and physical witness of the reality of Jesus Christ.

“The reason I made [the Savior] that small and so high up was so that no one could nail me—‘How do you know how he looked?’ So I put this little figure up in the sky and made it so small that no one could quibble over details like facial features.” – Arnold Friberg [1]

What an amazing event - this is the crowning event of the Book of Mormon.

After the scene depicted in the above painting, the resurrected Lord invited the Nephites to feel the wounds in His hands and feet (3 Nephi 11:14).  This was so they could all witness His Resurrection, and testify of what they saw and felt.

Jesus Christ teaching in the Western Hemisphere
John Scott

The wounds of the Saviour are tokens of His sacrifice:

“However dim our days may seem, they have been a lot darker for the Savior of the world. As a reminder of those days, Jesus has chosen, even in a resurrected, otherwise perfected body, to retain for the benefit of His disciples the wounds in His hands and in His feet and in His side—signs, if you will, that painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect; signs, if you will, that pain in this world is not evidence that God doesn’t love you; signs, if you will, that problems pass and happiness can be ours. Remind others that it is the wounded Christ who is the Captain of our souls, He who yet bears the scars of our forgiveness, the lesions of His love and humility, the torn flesh of obedience and sacrifice.” [2]
Also note:  these wounds are the main way we will one day recognise our Saviour, when He comes again.  I’m certain He will invite us, as He did before, to come forward and feel those wounds …

Jesus Christ promised: “Blessed are those who come unto me” (3 Nephi 9:14).  This invitation is for all of us! It applies to our daily living – wherever we are going, first come and see what He is doing; listen to His words and how He prays and spends His time. [3]

Come, follow Him.

The Book of Mormon Forum

If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] as quoted in :Vern Swanson, ‘The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg, “Painter of Scripture”, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol 10, 1, 26-35, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2011
[2] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Teaching, Preaching, Healing,” Ensign, Jan 2003, 42
[3] Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, Nov. 1997, 65

[Image found at]

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another plethora of testimonies about the Book of Mormon.

I recently posted a blog hop, linking you to a hundred testimonies and experiences of the Book of Mormon.  I'd say it was successful.

Did you miss it?  Well, that's just rude.  Have a quick click around - make sure you comment - and see the new blog hop below.  Woo!

The Book of Mormon will answer your questions - part 4.

Most of us have some hard questions in the back of our minds – the kind no one else can really answer for us.  Some are far-reaching questions about the nature of our existence …  

Do you believe we are accountable for our choices or actions, and to what extent?

I posted this question on Facebook.  My Dad messaged me his answer: “Yes.  Lots.”

Accountability – being held responsible for your actions – is an eternal principle.  That is, it’s been around since the beginning.

Take Adam, for example.  He did a few booboos in the Garden of Eden, like eating some forbidden fruit.  He then hid from God.  Now God, of course, knew the fruit had been eaten and by whom.  God also knew which bush Adam was hiding behind.  But God still had to ask: Where art thou? (Genesis 3:9); Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? (Genesis 3:11) God then asked Eve: What is this that thou hast done?

God made Adam and Eve accountable for their actions; they were given opportunity to explain themselves.

And so it will be with us.

The Book of Mormon does teach us that every can be saved.  It also confirms what the Bible teaches us - that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and that Jesus Christ “will never cease his work until all [mankind] are brought up to the enjoyment of a kingdom in the mansions of his Father…” [1]

And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam. (2 Nephi 9:21)

The Book of Mormon then goes on to remind us that Christ commanded all men to repent, be baptised in His name, and exercise faith in Him.   You cannot claim Jesus as your Saviour, and then not act on His teachings.
And if they will not repent and believe on his name, and be baptised in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it. Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon then, because of the atonement … (2 Nephi 9:23-25)

This is brilliant stuff.  The Book of Mormon is teaching us in depth about our accountability – and that we will be held accountable, so far as we know.  “To him who has never been made acquainted with a higher law, the requirements of that law do not apply in their fullness. For sin committed without knowledge – that is, for laws violated in ignorance – a propitiation has been provided in the atonement wrought through the sacrifice of the Saviour; and sinners of this class do not stand condemned, but shall be given opportunity yet to learn and to accept or reject the principles of the Gospel.” [2]

Everyone has the freedom to make their own choices.  We can live and worship “how, where or what we may” (see our eleventh Article of Faith).  We can listen to the words of Christ and not accept them.  We can try our upmost and have faith that Christ will help us, after all we can do.

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, accordingly to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.  (2 Nephi 2:27)

We are free to choose.  And we are accountable for our choices.

The Book of Mormon teaches us the key:

And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.
(Helaman 14:30-31)

The Book of Mormon Forum

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Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 56
[2] James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, 12th ed. [1924], 58

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Book of Mormon will answer your questions - part 3.

Most of us have some hard questions in the back of our minds – the kind no one else can really answer for us.  Some are far-reaching questions about the nature of our existence …

Why is the atonement necessary? 

Okay, I’ve been avoiding answering this question – only because it is such a massive topic!

But my procrastination has resulted in my guilt.  I should just look directly to the scriptures, and start there.

For I know that ye have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come; wherefore I know that ye know that our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God.

For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs comes unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement…
(2 Nephi 9: 4, 6)

We are stopped from returning to God’s presence by two deathly obstacles: physical death and spiritual death.

“Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the physical body. Because of the Fall of Adam, all mankind will suffer physical death.” [1]  Spiritual death when someone is “cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Alma 42:9).   Both these deaths are a result from the Fall of Adam and Eve.

That is, because Adam and Eve (and thus all mankind) were literally kicked out of the presence of God (in the Garden of Eden), we are separated spiritually from God.  And we are also mortal, and will die, so we are physically separated from God also.

All of God’s children who lived in mortality will overcome physical and spiritual death through the powers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.   This principle was also taught later in the Book of Mormon by Samuel the Lamanite (see Helaman 14:17).  In fact, the Book of Mormon is filled with scriptures proclaiming the Saviour’s atoning mission. [2]

Jesus condescended (lowered himself) to live on Earth and be subject to ridicule, torture.  He took upon Himself all the pains and sufferings of all mankind.  It took place in the Garden of Gethsemane, and it was very real.   He was later crucified, but rose on the third day (the Resurrection), overcoming both spiritual death and physical death for us.   This is what we call the Atonement.

The Atonement is central to God’s merciful plan for us.  It basically ransoms all mankind from the Fall (overcoming spiritual death).  Jesus, as our Saviour, will pay the price necessary for justice to be carried out, and we will all be saved from death, hell, the devil etc. (overcoming physical death).

The leaders of my church - the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles – have declared to the world the central role of the Saviour and His influence on all mankind:

“We offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

“He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. . . .

“He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

“We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world”. [3] 

Our salvation depends on believing in and accepting the Atonement. Such acceptance requires a continual effort to understand it more fully. The Atonement advances our mortal course of learning by making it possible for our natures to become perfect. . . .

“. . . Any increase in our understanding of His atoning sacrifice draws us closer to Him. Literally, the Atonement means to be ‘at one’ with Him. The nature of the Atonement and its effects is so infinite, so unfathomable, and so profound that it lies beyond the knowledge and comprehension of mortal man. . . .

“We long for the ultimate blessing of the Atonement—to become one with Him, to be in His divine presence, to be called individually by name as He warmly welcomes us home with a radiant smile, beckoning us with open arms to be enfolded in His boundless love. How gloriously sublime this experience will be if we can feel worthy enough to be in His presence! The free gift of His great atoning sacrifice for each of us is the only way we can be exalted enough to stand before Him and see Him face-to-face. The overwhelming message of the Atonement is the perfect love the Savior has for each and all of us. It is a love which is full of mercy, patience, grace, equity, long-suffering, and, above all, forgiving.” [4]

There is no need to worry.  The scope of Christ’s Atonement is infinite and eternal.  Literally.  “Its effects cover all men, the earth itself and all forms of life thereon, and reach out into the endless expanses of eternity.” [5]  It is without end.  And it is infinite beyond human comprehension.

The Book of Mormon offers us clarity and comfort:

And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.

For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.

Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.

But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.

Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the claw of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.

And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea infinite and eternal.

And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
(Alma 34:8-17)

O how great the plan of our God!

“If physical death should strike before moral wrongs have been made right, opportunity for repentance will have been forfeited. Thus, ‘the [real] sting of death is sin’ (1 Corinthians 15:56).

“Even the Savior cannot save us in our sins. He will redeem us from our sins, but only upon condition of our repentanceWe are responsible for our own spiritual survival or death (see Romans 8:13–14; Helaman 14:18; D&C 29:41–45).” [6]

This leads beautifully into my next question that the Book of Mormon can help answer…  

The Book of Mormon Forum

If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] Earl C. Tingey, Ensign, May 2006, 73
[2] see 2 Nephi 2:9–10; 9:15, 22, 38; Alma 11:43–44; 12:12–15, 24; 42:23; 3 Nephi 26:4
[3] “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign, Apr. 2000, 2–3
[4] James E. Faust, Ensign, Nov. 2001, 18, 20
[5] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 64; see also Moses 7:30
[6] Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, May 1992, 73

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book of Mormon painting five.

So we know Lehi and his family were commanded to leave Jerusalem.

They travelled for many years, and had various experiences.

In chapter 18 of 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, they finally reached the land that was promised to them by the Lord.

I love how Nephi credits the Lord in every step of the journey.  In verse 3, he tells us that he did go oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.

Lehi and His People Arrive in the Promised Land

I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed … towards the promised land.
And … after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land. (1 Nephi 18:22–23)

“Yes, this shows the ship that Nephi built. Nobody knows what his ship looked like. All we are told is that it was not built after the manner of men. . . . I don’t think God would instruct Nephi to build some very weird thing never seen in heaven or earth just to prove that it had divine help. It would be some perfectly sensible principle of shipbuilding that was perhaps in advance of what was known to shipbuilders at that time.

“This moment is when, with great relief, they finally sighted land, so for the moment the fighting between them is forgotten in the excitement of seeing land.

“The birds are not seagulls, but rather swallow- tailed roseate terns, which are found in the tropical waters around Central America. Such details helped define the geographic location for this painting. Lehi is looking heavenward in thanks, while the other guys are pretty much like in a pirate picture, shouting ‘Land Ho!’ The huge ropes were from the movie The Ten Commandments, and they were brought from Egypt. The Bedouins there weave these immense ropes by hand.” [1]

 I love reading the Book of Mormon.

And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, ... and they teach all men that they should do good. (2 Nephi 33:10)

Seriously, just go here.

The Book of Mormon Forum

If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] Arnold Friberg, as quoted in Vern Swanson, ‘The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg, “Painter of Scripture”, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol 10, 1, 26-35, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2011

[Image found at]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book of Mormon painting four.

This story is way cool.

The first book in the Book of Mormon details the journeys of Lehi and his family around 600BC.  You can read about them here.  Nephi is an obedient son, who follows God and understands that through God their family is blessed and led to safety.

Chapter 17 of Nephi’s account begins with the young Nephi reminding us readers that God is mindful of his children, and that when we keep His commandments, we will be blessed.  He gives us a powerful and candid illustration: sure they were suffering in the hot wilderness, with not much food, with their women bearing children in the middle of nowhere – um, wow – but there are blessings or tender mercies to be thankful for everywhere.  They had raw meat to eat, meat that was sweetened and acceptable for their bodies; their women were healthy and able to birth and rear their children well.  It was possible and bearable, through the Lord.

And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us … and thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the things which he has commanded them … (1 Nephi 17:2-3)

And they were blessed.  Eight years later, they came to a land with much fruit and honey.  They called the land ‘Bountiful’.  They were continually watched over and blessed.

When they reached the sea, the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship.  The verses that detail how the Lord spoke to Nephi are beautiful, and filled with a lot of meaning.  You should check that out, and keep an eye open for references of speaking to the Lord on high mountains and cross-referencing them with the Old Testament.

Nephi is instructed how to do it, given the comfort that the Lord will help him – and so he trustingly obeys.

His older brothers – the serial murmurs Laman and Lemuel – think Nephi is a nutcase.  They think he is a fool for thinking he can build a ship and then cross an ocean.  (Sound familiar, oh ye of little faith?)  They didn’t help Nephi or even look into the idea – just complained and mocked, and enjoyed the times Nephi found the task hard.  They forgot about all their blessings and all of the happiness their family has had over the past years of travel.

It’s interesting to consider – who would we be.  A Nephi or a Laman?  Remember, they did have it tough.
Or, if we were in Nephi’s shoes – how would we have reacted to our brothers?

Nephi powerfully reminds them who they are, and just how much the Lord has blessed them, their children, their extended families, and their forefathers.  He recounts a mini history of God’s dealings with Israel, from the time God led Moses and the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage.  Both the Book of Mormon and the Bible are filled with historical accounts of God’s dealings with His children – we must not forget these!  In order for us to be grateful and appreciate what WE have, just look back over time (your childhood, your parent’s lives, your family history) and we can SEE that God has truly blessed us from the beginning.  He truly is a loving Father in Heaven.

He pleads with them, in anguish.

Well, that did it.  The older brothers get really really angry with their brother.  Nephi writes: they were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea.  Yeah, they were mad.

Annnnnnnnnd … boom!  Nephi is filled with the power of God, and those nasty brothers are forbidden to even touch him ... lest they wither as a dried reed.

Young Nephi Subdues His Rebellious Brothers

[My brethren] were angry with me, and were desirous to throw me into the depths of the sea; and as they came forth to lay their hands upon me I spake unto them, saying: In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God … ; and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; … for God shall smite him. (1 Nephi 17:48)

About painting Nephi, Friberg said: “I tried to show a fine, strong young man. Nephi himself records that he was large of stature. And, of course, this shows his forge. It [was] a big enough job to undertake to build a ship, but he had to start before that. He didn’t’ even have any tools. He had to melt the ore out of the mountain and then fashion a crude forge, even to make the tools. Talk about starting from scratch!” [1]

I have often asked: why the heck were Laman and Lemuel the way they were, after all they experienced??  Hello!!  Even after seeing any angel [1 Nephi 2:16], why couldn’t they receive a spiritual confirmation of their journey like younger brother Nephi had?

In previous chapters of Nephi’s account, Nephi records that he is continually reminding his brothers to REMEMBER.  How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? … Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? (1 Nephi 15:10-11)

Let’s look at 1 Nephi 17:45.  Nephi identifies their problem – they were slow to remember the Lord, and all that He has done for them; and they were past feeling that they could not hear any spiritual communication.

I’m pretty sure that ticked them off – not only is your younger brother telling you off, but he hits the nail right on the head.

We have been taught that spiritual communication is from “The Holy Ghost [who] speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a ‘still small voice’ [Doctrine and Covenants 85:6]. And while we speak of ‘listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling. . . .’

President Boyd K. Packer stated: “Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear.”  What a brilliant definition of spiritual communication.  Read it again:  “Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear. [Knowing that,] Nephi told his wayward brothers, who were visited by an angel, ‘Ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.’ ” [2]

Nephi also identifies the cause of their spiritual insensitivity as being “swift to do iniquity”. Interesting … what does that mean?

Well read this; I thought this was interesting:

President James E. Faust compared a person’s worthiness of receiving the Spirit to receiving a signal on a cell phone:

“Cellular phones are used for much of the communication in our time. Occasionally, however, we find dead spots where the signal coming to a cell phone fails. This can happen when the cell phone user is in a tunnel or a canyon or when there is other interference.

“So it is with divine communication. The still, small voice, though still and small, is very powerful. It ‘whispereth through and pierceth all things’ [D&C 85:6]. . . . Perhaps something in our lives prevents us from hearing the message because we are ‘past feeling’ [1 Nephi 17:45]. We often put ourselves in spiritual dead spots—places and situations that block out divine messages. Some of these dead spots include anger, pornography, transgression, selfishness, and other situations that offend the Spirit” [3]
I’ve always been intrigued – and almost jealous? – of the relationship Nephi had with the Holy Ghost.  We are taught that we can receive revelation, peace, warning etc. from the Holy Ghost, but without a body and much more information on him, I think it is easy to forget just how REAL the Holy Ghost is – as a very-much present personage in our lives.  The Holy Ghost is much more than a whisper, a feeling, an idea … he is a member of the Godhead, and is thus a somebody!  Check out chapter 11 of 1 Nephi – Nephi is having a full-on conversation with the Holy Ghost!  Nephi can tell his own voice apart from the Holy Ghosts’, and he can enjoy the sweetness of spiritual communication.

To me, that is the ideal.  The Book of Mormon opens with this ideal – a great man, who suffered much, who overcame much, and who sincerely loved being obedient.  It’s the high end of the spectrum.  The other end, I guess, would be the ‘Laman and Lemuels’ of the world (poor guys), who were “past feeling” and could not “feel” the words of the Holy Ghost.  What a loss for them.

Where are you on that spectrum?  How is your sensitivity to spiritual communication?

The Book of Mormon gives us an ideal to live up to; and while Nephi and Laman/Lemuel may be extreme cases, spiritual insensitivity isn’t just a problem for those with serious sin.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained:

“I fear that some members of the Lord’s Church ‘live far beneath our privileges’ with regard to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Some are distracted by the things of the world that block out the influence of the Holy Ghost, preventing them from recognizing spiritual promptings. This is a noisy and busy world that we live in. Remember that being busy is not necessarily being spiritual. If we are not careful, the things of this world can crowd out the things of the Spirit.

“Some are spiritually deadened and past feeling because of their choices to commit sin. Others simply hover in spiritual complacency with no desire to rise above themselves and commune with the Infinite. If they would open their hearts to the refining influence of this unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, a glorious new spiritual dimension would come to light. Their eyes would gaze upon a vista scarcely imaginable. They could know for themselves things of the Spirit that are choice, precious, and capable of enlarging the soul, expanding the mind, and filling the heart with inexpressible joy” [4]

The Book of Mormon Forum 

If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it

[1] Vern Swanson, ‘The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg, “Painter of Scripture”, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol 10, 1, 26-35, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2011
[2] Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1994, 60
[3] James E. Faust, Ensign, May 2004, 67
[4] Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign, May 2003, 27

[Image found at]

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Book of Mormon will answer your questions – part 2.

Most of us have some hard questions in the back of our minds – the kind no one else can really answer for us. Some are far-reaching questions about the nature of our existence …

What is my purpose? Why do you believe we exist?

The Book of Mormon teaches us: Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

Read all about it here.

“Adam fell” is referring to the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  When he and Eve ate the fruit, it was an act of disobedience and they were cast out of God’s presence.  But it was a necessary act – for they were then able to have children.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why the Fall was necessary:

“The Creation culminated with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were created in the image of God, with bodies of flesh and bone. Created in the image of God and not yet mortal, they could not grow old and die. ‘And they would have had no children’ [2 Nephi 2:23] nor experienced the trials of life. . . . The creation of Adam and Eve was a paradisiacal creation, one that required a significant change before they could fulfill the commandment to have children and thus provide earthly bodies for premortal spirit sons and daughters of God.

“. . . The Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well. They were now able to have children. They and their posterity also became subject to injury, disease, and death”. [1]
So Adam fell that men might be … and we exist so we might have joy.

JOY is a word I have always wondered about – it seems too high and glorious to comprehend or explain.  But thankfully, the scripture continues on the subject:

And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall.  And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God have given.

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man.  And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi 2:25-27)

This scripture from the Book of Mormon is key in understanding how the Fall affected (blessed) us, and how we are capable of experiencing joy.  Adam and Eve’s posterity were likewise banished from the physical presence of God, but we are all innocent from the original sin because we had no part in it.  “It was therefore unfair for all of humanity to suffer eternally for the transgressions of our first parents, Adam and Eve.  It became necessary to settle this injustice; hence the need for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus in His role as the Savior and Redeemer”. [2]  It is possible of every soul to obtain forgiveness of sins – to have them washed away and be forgotten!  The transcendent act of the Atonement saves us from the fall, and we are free to know the joy of our redemption, to know good from evil, and to act for ourselves.  And to have kids.

Do you believe we are saved by grace?

Grace refers to the divine help or strength given to us through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.  The grace of Jesus is made possible by his atoning sacrifice, enabling mankind to be raised in immortality, receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life.

It is also through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that we may receive strength and help to do the good that we cannot on our own.  It is an enabling power that allows us to “lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after [we] have expended [our] own best efforts”. [3]

This is what the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi meant when he said:  For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)

It is truly the grace of Jesus Christ that makes salvation possible.  This principle is expressed in Jesus’ parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:1–11).  But grace “cannot suffice without total effort on [our] part” – hence Nephi explaining we will be saved by the grace of Christ after all we can do.
“Some Christians accuse Latter-day Saints . . . of denying the grace of God through claiming they can earn their own salvation. We answer this accusation with the words of two Book of Mormon prophets. Nephi taught, ‘For we labor diligently . . . to persuade our children . . . to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23). And what is ‘all we can do’? It surely includes repentance (see Alma 24:11) and baptism, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Moroni pleaded, ‘Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ’ (Moroni 10:32).

We are not saved in our sins, as by being unconditionally saved through confessing Christ and then, inevitably, committing sins in our remaining lives (see Alma 11:36–37). We are saved from our sins (see Helaman 5:10) by a weekly renewal of our repentance and cleansing through the grace of God and His blessed plan of salvation (see 3 Nephi 9:20–22).”

What happens to us when we die?

Rather than a short form answer, which may very well raise further questions, I want to answer this as comprehensively as my little bloggy can go.

Both the Book of Mormon and the Bible are pretty clear that we lived with God before we were born.  The Bible refers a lot to people being chosen and ordained prior to being born on Earth (see Ephesians 1:3-4  and Jeremiah 1:5, where prophets were comforted, knowing God knew them before they were born).
And good old Job was not only told he was around when God laid the foundations of the earth, but that we all shouted for joy when the creation was planned and done! (Job 38:4-7)

And clearly for Satan and his minions to be cast out of heaven into the earth, we all had to be in that heaven to begin with. (Revelation 12:9)

The Book of Mormon refers to our pre-mortal life in more detail:

And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such. (Alma 13:3)

This is such a wonderful piece of knowledge!  You must read about it here.

So we know we lived in heaven a long time ago.  And that our Heavenly Father created a plan for us all to live on Earth, have experience and joy, be tried and tested, and to be given the choice of returning to Him.

The scriptures are also clear we will live after we die.

We know that when we die, our body and spirit separates.  Where our spirit goes is another great question (go on, ask me ...).  But the atonement of Jesus Christ conquered death, making it possible for us to be resurrected after death.  Woo!  AND such resurrection is a free gift to all!  Double woo!

This is what the prophet Alma is talking about here:

Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.

What a happy thought for the disabled, the handicap, the bald.

The prophet Alma then goes on to explain the relationship between our lives on earth and where we end up afterwards:

And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil. (Alma 40:11-13,23)

This is another sound example of how the Book of Mormon helps us to understand what we already know from the Bible, and in greater (perhaps even simpler?) detail.  Do you agree?

Note: I’ve tried to make this answer as simple as possible.  I’m sure it raises further questions and thoughts, for example I’ve totally skipped over the Judgment part and Christ’s role as our mediator in determining ‘were we end up afterwards’.

But know this: we existed before this life, and we will continue to exist after it.

We are currently in Act II of a 3-part play.

“The assurance of resurrection gives us the strength and perspective to endure the mortal challenges faced by each of us and by those we love, such things as the physical, mental, or emotional deficiencies we bring with us at birth or acquire during mortal life. Because of the resurrection, we know that these mortal deficiencies are only temporary!” [5]

Why was Christ baptised?

Jesus Christ is the perfect example.  Being holy and without sin, Christ physically showed us how to be baptised and why.  What an example of humility and obedience – for that is what it was; an act of obedience.

Although Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist far away from the Americas, the people there knew this event was taking place.  Prophets taught (and recorded in the Book of Mormon) the people of baptism, and carefully taught why their Saviour would do so:

Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.

And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?

Know ye not hat he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.

Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.

And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. (2 Nephi 31:4-9)

We believe that “entering into the kingdom of God is so important that Jesus was baptized to show us ‘the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which [we] should enter’ (2 Nephi 31:9).” [6]
“Born of a mortal mother, Jesus was baptized to fulfil His Father’s commandment that sons and daughters of God should be baptized. He set the example for all of us to humble ourselves before our Heavenly Father. We are all welcome to come into the waters of baptism. He was baptized to witness to His Father that He would be obedient in keeping His commandments. He was baptized to show us that we should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

“As we follow the example of Jesus, we, too, demonstrate that we will repent and be obedient in keeping the commandments of our Father in Heaven. We humble ourselves with a broken heart and a contrite spirit as we recognize our sins and seek forgiveness of our trespasses (see 3 Nephi 9:20). We covenant that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and always remember Him” [7]

Good thing the Book of Mormon expands upon this subject, as the Bible isn’t quite as clear …

Why is the atonement necessary?

Do you believe we are accountable for our choices or actions, and to what extent?

These are big topics, but the Book of Mormon can answer these questions too.
I’ll show you soon …

Can you see just how useful companion scripture can be?  The Bible and the Book of Mormon go hand in hand.  Once we have a testimony that they are both indeed the word of God, we can then dive into the life and teachings of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  I love reading the scriptures!  I love the happiness I feel when I understand something more fully, the enlightenment I feel and the peaceful assurance that brings.

The Book of Mormon Forum
If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] Russel M. Nelson, Ensign, Nov. 1996, 33
[2] James E. Faust, Ensign, Nov. 1988, 12
[3] Bible Dictionary, “Grace,” 697
[4] Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, May 1998, 56 - bold & underline added
[5] Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, May 2000, 14
[6] Robert D. Hales, Ensign, Nov. 2000, 7–8
[7] Ibid

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book of Mormon painting three.

Around 160-150 BC, there was a terribly wicked king.

King Noah ruled in wickedness, surrounding himself with women, wealth, and (I venture to say) smut.  Pretty sure that’s the way of it.  He taxed his people one fifth of all they possessed.  He “put down” all the good priests his father had consecrated and chose prideful Noah-loving lazy priests instead.  It was pretty bad.

Noah was so wicked, that later in 92 BC, King Mosiah used Noah as the primary reason for the people to eliminate a government of kings.  He said:  How much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! Yea, remember king Noah.  (Mosiah 29:17-18)

And so, God rose up a prophet to cry repentance – a standard practice of God.  The prophet’s named was Abinadi.  He cried to the people to repent from their ways, but more importantly for the King to repent from his unpleasant ways.  And he prophesied that the people would be taken into bondage.  Oh, and that King Noah would die even as a garment in a hot furnace.  Good, to-the-point messages.

As you can imagine, King Noah wasn’t thrilled with the message Abinadi was shouting about, and wanted him gone.  Abinadi is eventually imprisoned for his prophesies, and he sees just how bad the false priests really are.  While in prison, he tries to teach them about the Ten Commandments, and how to really keep the Law of Moses.

Again, King Noah isn’t too pleased with Abinadi.  He wants him dead.  Away with this fellow, and slay him … (totally reminds me of the Queen of Hearts here)

And you know what Abinadi said to him?

Abinadi Delivers His Message to King Noah by Arnold Friberg

Abinadi Delivers His Message to King Noah
Arnold Friberg

[Abinadi] said unto them: “Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me. …

After Abinadi had spoken these words … the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster. (Mosiah 13:2–3, 5)

Boo yah!  Take that, you slimy king!

Abinadi had such a powerful message.  The guards couldn't touch him.  And I’m not talking about the call to repentance or the prophesy of their destruction as a consequence from turning away from God.  Abinadi taught quite profoundly about the Saviour’s divinity and the great sacrifice this Saviour would make.  He also taught about the unity between this Saviour and the Father.  What a privilege to know of this great, fearless prophet, and to read of his words regarding the Saviour, Jesus Christ.  By reading the account in the Book of Mormon, we can gain a deeper appreciation of the Saviour and His Atonement for us.

What courage he had.  This painting clearly captures that courage – look at what this old faithful man is facing: a powerful corrupt leader, a court of wealthy, proud priests, all that luxury … and those friendly looking jaguars.

On the composition of the scene, Friberg said he did “the opposite of the well- known principle in art, the ‘principle of the Jewel.’ ...It is like a jewel setting - the central figure is the most interesting part.  You use the strongest color and the strongest and most vibrant contrast around the center of interest, and then it goes into surrounding neutrals.  I reversed it here for the purposes of this picture.  Against the simplicity of Abinadi in his grey prison garb was the opulence of the court.  The richness of the colors set off this simple, humble man.

“And the jaguars - I spent days studying them at the zoo.  There were several reasons for putting them in.  One thing, it gives a royal touch to have the animals chained to the throne.  They are not leopards; they are jaguars, which are more compact animals than leopards.  Jaguars are found only in Central and South America, so they sort of help define the geographical setting.  Animals are very sensitive to supernatural power. ...The jaguars are snarling because they sense the awesome power that is surrounding Abinadi.

“Then there are the priests of King Noah.  I had somewhat in mind the man back here at the right might be young Alma.  He was mightily impressed by the courageous testimony of Abinadi, so much so that he became a prophet.” [1]

Out of the entire set, this painting is Arnold Friberg’s favourite, perhaps because the figure of Abinadi held a special meaning for Friberg.

Friberg’s family was converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1921, while living in Arizona, through the missionary efforts of a Brother Altop.  Friberg was seven years old.  He was baptized the next year, and remembers fondly the missionary teaching his family received from Brother Altop.

While Friberg worked on this very painting, Brother Altop visited him in Salt Lake City.  He was lean and muscular from years of working as a carpenter, so the revered friend was immediately put to work posing as Abinadi. [2]

Continuing our read in the Book of Mormon, we find out Abinadi’s fate.  He was put to death by fire.  He continued to show great courage, even in death.  We also read of the fate of King Noah and his people – read on here, here and then here – and how one of Noah’s priests did listen.  See the man Friberg was talking about off to the right, looking like he is actually listening and considering the message of the prophet?

Abinadi’s testimony led to the conversion of a future prophet-leader, Alma.

As a missionary, I found great solace in this account.  Abinadi was essentially a missionary who did not see any fruits of his labour.  He obeyed God, he preached and prophesied, he taught and tried his hardest – but he saw none of the results.  It can be hard, as a missionary, or even as a follower of Christ, to see the results of our efforts or example.

But consider the influence that this one righteous man had on future generations.  The next several generations of prophets, who prepared the people for the coming of Jesus Christ, came through his one known convert, Alma.

Perhaps we can profoundly affect our family and friends by testifying of truth and by living righteously – even when we don’t see the results.

What a great hero for your family to have.

The Book of Mormon Forum

If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] Vern Swanson, ‘The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg, “Painter of Scripture”, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol 10, 1, 26-35, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2011
[2] Ibid

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book of Mormon painting two.

The Book of Mormon opens with the story of Lehi, a prophet in Jerusalem, and his family.  After prophesying of the big city’s destruction around the same time the prophet Jeremiah did (600 BC), the Lord directed Lehi to uproot his family in search of a better life.  Taking with them their family records and very little of their wealth, we read of a typical family - devoted, loving parents; rebellious know-it-all kids; obedient yet tortured-by-the-rebellious-siblings kids – and their trials as they try their best to follow God.

Imagine: You’ve just left your grand home and over-flowing high-interest savings account behind.  You’re now travelling via foot or donkey through sandy deserts.  The sun beats down heavily most of the time, with the sandy wind blowing around you the rest of the time.  You miss cooked food.  You miss cool drink and fruit.  And you don’t even know if your home city really was destroyed, like your old man said it would.

It would have been such a physically and spiritually exhausting journey.  You end up living out there for years, travelling – you hope – towards somewhere nicer.  You bear children in the wilderness.  You eat raw meat and hope it will carry you on til the next meal.

And you really rely on your faith to take you in the right direction.

At one point in their travels, Lehi finds a weird looking ball outside his tent.  It could only have been put there by the hand of God.  Lehi must have then called everyone to come and look, for this is the scene depicted – when the family all gather round this unusual contraption, looking astonished, trying to figure out what it does.

Lehi in the Wilderness Discovers the Liahona
Arnold Friberg

To his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.
(1 Nephi 16:10)

We learn from the scriptures that they call it a “liahona”, and that is served as an intricate compass showing them the direction to travel.  It worked, however, on the condition of their obedience to God:  the pointers which were in the ball … did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them. … changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.  (1 Nephi 16:28-9)

When Lehi’s boys bickered and murmured, the compass stoped working, and they could no longer travel without the Lord’s guidance or gain any better understanding concerning the ways of the Lord.  You can imagine how often that happened.

This painting would have been quite complex for Friberg to complete, as the account in the Book of Mormon contains very specific detail - the liahona is round, curious, made of fine brass, has two spindles – but leads to more questions. 
When interviewed in 1986, he said:  “How large was the Liahona? How did they see the pointers? What did they do with it when they weren’t using it? Did they let it roll around on the deck of the ship?”  So what did he do?  He responded well:  “There is no tube of paint that says “Don’t know.” I have to come to grips with it…I have to paint something. I decided on a handy little size that they could hold in their hand, and I made a little tripod stand for it to sit in. Someone will actually demand …"Then how dare you paint it, if you don’t know?" … All you can do is research the period as close as you can and picture something that makes sense. You just come up with something that somehow fulfils your idea of what it looked like.” [1]

Also note the way he presented us with the family’s appearance and in particular the male physique.  The abundance of figures that he spreads across the canvas almost creates the sense of an unknown race of people.  Friberg clearly envisioned the Nephites as heroic and “larger than life” figures, and wanted to display that vitality in his art. [2]

Later in the Book of Mormon, another prophet teaches his son about the Liahona, and how their ancestors were slow to follow the Lord at times.  He said:

And now, my son, I would that ye should understand … as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass … they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.

For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.  (Alma 37:43-5)

I love how the Book of Mormon is filled with messages and events so applicable to the gospel of Jesus Christ and how we can live it today.  We all use compasses, maps, road signs and GPS to navigate ourselves and our families today.  They are invaluable tools when we travel, get lost, and need direction.

You can see where I’m going with this … because “there is such a variety and volume of media flooding our personal space, most of it intent on herding us down a path that is broad and travelled by many.” [3]  There are many roads in life to be taken.  Have you ever asked yourself, as Joseph Smith once did, “What is to be done? Who of all these [voices and roads is] right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” [4]

You totally have.  We all have.

Just like Alma reminded his son 500 years after the Liahona surfaced, the Lord is prepared to guide and direct us in our travels, just as He did with Lehi and his family.  But remember: the miraculous device worked by small means, and they were therefore ‘slothful’ and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence daily.  Sometimes we are looking for massive sign posts, flashing arrows, and easy hand-outs to help us make the right choices.  I doubt the Lord will reveal new paths for us to take if we haven’t faithfully followed Him along the paths He’s already marked.

Have you had experiences with a Liahona?  You totally have . A message from General Conference that seems mysteriously written just for you.  That voice warning you not to walk down a wrong path.

I think the key is not becoming complacent and not being used to hearing lots of messages that we miss or ignore the liahonas in our lives.  And to remember how the Liahona worked for Lehi and his family – through faithfulness, obedience, and daily diligence.

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[1] Vern Swanson, ‘The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg, “Painter of Scripture”, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol 10, 1, 26-35, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2011, citing a 1986 interview with Friberg
[2] Ibid, citing an 1981 interview with Friberg
[3] Lowell M. Snow, ‘Compass of the Lord’, Ensign, Nov. 2005
[4] Ibid, citing Joseph Smith History 1:10

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