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

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