Thursday, December 10, 2009

1 Nephi Chapter 9

This is a logistical chapter in the Book of Mormon. There is not much in terms of doctrine or teachings. It is an explanation of Nephi's journal. He wrote two different accounts; one being a spiritual journal, and the other being a logistical journal. One dealt with his ministry, and the other dealt with wars, contentions and kings. This amazes me. I wonder what Nephi's proliferation rate was. I have a great grandfather who is still alive. he is 103 years old and doing very well. He has about 150 descendants including in-laws. He has one of the greatest posterities of anyone I know. If we were the only ones in the continent, I could not imagine calling ourselves a kingdom. If we did, I wonder what his definition was of war, and battles, and kings, and kingdoms. This is one of those times I would like a visual on the Book of Mormon. I would love to read the other plates. The Book of Mormon makes for a wonderful book of ministry, but a horrendous history. This chapter explains why,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

1 Nephi Chapter 8

Lehi's vision is one of the great visions in the scriptures. It has many tiers, and I do not believe that I, at this point of my life, understand many of these tiers. I have discussed the matter with friends and relatives of mine, and they have given me some insight on the matter. I think that like most of the scriptures that this vision ought to be personalized and applied to one's own personal understanding as the Holy Ghost prompts.

Talking with LeGrand Baker, he indicates that there is deep symbolism that we find in much of out own understanding of the Plan of Salvation. Lehi was taken to a dark and dreary wilderness where he tarried. An angel appeared and brought him to a fruit tree where he partook of Eternal Life. This is the end goal that we want to share for ourselves and for our families.

There are other elements of this vision that have shaped the LDS tradition. One of which is the "iron rod." Later we learn that the iron rod is the word of God. Should we hold on to the iron rod without letting go, the word will lead us to Eternal Life. Lehi describes the journey with the saints as "Pressing forward." Many hymns with were written with this theme including "The Iron Rod," and "Press Forward Saints."

Monday, December 7, 2009

1 Nephi Chapter 7

To whine, or not to whine, that is the question. Whine Whine Whine Whine. Laman and Lemuel are most famous in the Book of Mormon for whining. The thing that they whine about the most is that they do not want their little brother to be a ruler over them. They want to be in charge because they are the oldest, best-looking, strongest, smartest, and so forth. I know all about it, I am a middle child. (I love you Ben).

The thing I like best about Laman and Lemuel is that they know when to whine. They whine when they leave Jerusalem. They whine when they have to go back to Jerusalem for the plates. They whine when they fail in their mission. They whine when they go back to their parents. However, nowhere in the seventh chapter of Nephi does it state that they whined about going back to Jerusalem to obtain wives. They know their priorities. How can you go on a voyage, never returning home without a wife? It was not until they finally convinced Ishmael to yield his daughters that Laman and Lemuel started whining again.

After fighting and wanting to stay in Jerusalem Nephi rebuked them once again. This upset Laman and Lemuel, so they bound him. They somehow forgot that an angel appeared to them. After Nephi performs his first miracle and breaks free of the chords which had him bound, Laman and Lemuel still wanted to kill him. Not until one of the daughters of Ishmael plead to save him did they stop. Nephi forgave, because he is the son that everyone wish they had. They went back to the wilderness and burnt a sacrifice.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

1 Nephi Chapter 6

This is a really quick chapter. Just a couple notes.

This lays about where Lehi's family came from. They were descendants of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt.

4 For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.

This sounds like what Moroni wrote in the introduction of the Book of Mormon. From the introduction he wrote:

. . . Which is 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 . . .

The wording is very similar, because Nephi had the same vision as Moroni. They knew that it was important to write down their testimonies to help others at some future date.

1 Nephi Chapter 5

Some things change over time. Parenting doesn't. I could easily mistake Lehi and Sariah for my own parents. Nephi and his brothers were sent out on a seemingly impossible task facing danger and death. The father is proud to have them go out, and has faith that they will come back, and should they not come back, at least they will die in honor and he will be a proud father. Meanwhile Sariah worries about her sons and mourns her loss. Does anyone have any similar mission stories?

No sooner than when they returned home Lehi jumped into the scriptures and read as much as he could in order to learn about where he came from. That is my dad too.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

1 Nephi Chapter 4

Attempt #3 - Three times a charm.

Nephi is quite amazing. After being beaten with a rod, he is resilient and has his eyes on one thing. Accomplishing his mission. After chastising his brothers for being blockheads he decides to go at it alone.

Nephi states in verse six, "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do."

I think of this as him saying "I'll figure it out when I get there." President Kimball and Nike both exclaimed, "Just do it." I think it is the same idea.

Next comes the part that I had to explain the most when I was a missionary in Southern Italy. We encouraged people to read the Book of Mormon, and they always came across this passage and thought it was funny that the Lord commanded Nephi to chop someone's head off. Right now, I think it is sufficient to reference David and Goliath, Joshua, and Samuel (as a couple of many examples. Keep in mind Nephi is still living in Old Testament times. Funny things happened back then I suppose. I don't think I'll be asked by the Lord to slay anyone. The Lord explained what his motive was. "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief."

Nephi accomplished his goal. He obtained the plates of Brass, from which he learned about his ancestry. They received the commandments, and went back to the wilderness to rejoin his father. He even met a new friend along the way. Nothing like threatening to slay one's life and kidnapping to start a relationship.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

1 Nephi Chapter 3

Every parent should have a Nephi. When I was living with my parents as a child they bought me John Bytheway's book "How to be an Extraordinary Teenager." The book talks about how awesome it is to be good. I think that John Bytheway had Nephi in mind when he was writing the book. If I could get all my kids to act the way he did, I'd name them all Nephi, even the girls.

Lehi dreamed a dream dreaming that their family would be ultimately destroyed if they did not leave in the night. Now Lehi tells Nephi to go back and get the Brass Plates from an evil man (probably his cousin), who has a lot of riches and probably political power. What was Nephi's response?

"7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

After their journey (probably 3-7 days), they returned and attempted to take the plates from Laban.

Attempt #1 - They cast lots, and they fell on Laman. He attempted to negotiate, and Laban tried to kill him. Fail.

Attempt #2 - Nephi persuades his brothers to buy the plates from Laban. Laban sees the riches, tries to kill them, steals the riches and doesn't give them the plates. Fail.

Laman and Lemuel then get mad and hit Nephi and Sam with a rod. An angel appears and chastises the older brothers. Laman and Lemuel complain after the angel leaves. (good riddance right?) Nephi of course doesn't complain, and he encourages his brothers to have faith.

Attempt #3 - to come

Monday, November 30, 2009

1 Nephi Chapter 2

Sometimes the Lord asks you to do funny things. Sometimes the Lord asks you to bath in the river seven times to cure leprosy. The Lord has asked others to blow trumpets and scream to knock down city walls. Today he asks people to go to church, pay tithing and do home/visiting teaching. In 1 Nephi Chapter 2 he told Lehi in a vision to leave Jerusalem in the night, leave behind his belongings and take his family in the wilderness. Where would the Gold Plates be if he had been sleeping during this vision? Certainly not upstate New York.

Nephi says in verse 3, "And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him."

Thank goodness he did.

This chapter has lots of things going on. I'll focus on two: 1. The departure 2. The Promise.

1. The departure.

Lehi left. He picked up his things and took off. This is one of the most common stories in literature. For every departure there is a return. Lehi physically left Jerusalem, and although he would never physically return, he would be reconnected with his Jerusalem roots when his sons bring back his genealogy in the brass plates. Every story has a departure, a trial or seemingly impossible task, triumph, and a return (and/or an understanding where you came from). My favorite story is the Lion King. Many others include Hamlet, Hercules, Where the Wild Things Are, Star Wars: New Hope, and David and Goliath.

Lehi was probably a very rich man. He left his goods and lived in a tent with his mostly unbelieving children. Nephi stayed faithful. He used the ideal formula for conversion. I'd recommend it to anyone. Many people go to Moroni for a great theocommunicative formula. For any interested, here is another great example.

16. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.

1. Desire to know God
2. Cry unto the Lord i.e. pray
3. soften heart to hear the Lord
4. Believe
5. Act

2. The Promise

20. And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a band of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
21. And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

This is the most repeated promise throughout the Book of Mormon, and this is the first mention of it.

Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land, and Inasmuch as ye keep not my commandments, ye shall be cut off from my presence.

This promise is a premise for the pride cycle, and the ultimate destruction of the Nephites. There are two ways to think about prosperity. The first is the gain of physical possessions, and the other is spiritual gain, or entering a covenant relationship. According to BYU professor Cory Crawford, "ye shall prosper in the land" suggests that prosperity is more about entering the presence of God since "not prospering" is equated with being cut off from his presence.

Crawford reminds us that although prosperity is often thought of as physical wealth, perhaps, as supported by the Old Testament, it means to be more about the establishment of a covenant of a community and peace rather than people getting rich.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Introduction & 1 Nephi Chapter 1

The Introduction to the Book of Mormon is comprised of the Title Page, Introduction, Testimony of Three Witnesses, Testimony of Eight Witnesses, Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and a Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon. All of which are wonderful. I will not publicly examine them in this project.

Being an Old Testament Prophet must have been a hard job. I am pretty thankful that I was not assigned the task in the Pre-mortal Life. The Book of Mormon takes place in Jerusalem about 600 B.C. Lehi, a prophet at the time, saw his first recorded vision. Nephi wrote down the visions that he felt were necessary to include in his record, which is the record that we have in our possession.

Old Testament Prophets were stoned, mocked, cast-out of cities, burnt, eaten by whales, and killed in other interesting ways. New Testament Prophets were probably treated even worse! It would be great job to be a prophet in a city where everyone listened to you, but since Enoch took his people up in a chariot of fire, I think prophets have had it pretty rough. Lehi was no exception.

The upside to being a prophet is that you receive awesome visions. The vision in the first chapter of 1 Nephi I believe is the most overlooked vision in the Book of Mormon.

Lehi prayed and saw a "Pillar of Fire". Fire is a key indicator of a visit from the Lord. In Joseph Smith's First vision he saw fire, as did Moses when he saw the Burning Bush. Lehi had a similar experience. "there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him"

He saw the heavens open, and who he thought was God sitting on a throne with concourses of angels singing and praising God. One descended out of the midst brighter than noon-day sun (I've heard that one before too). Twelve others followed him.

They gave Lehi a book which was filled with abominations. It said the Jerusalem would be destroyed. If it were not for what he read in this book, Lehi may not have taken his family out of Jerusalem, and we would not have the Book of Mormon.

Lehi told his family about his vision, and then preached to Jerusalem. The people did not accept that Jerusalem would be destroyed very easily. Lehi was lucky. He was given some time before the people came to destroy him. Lehi would eventually leave in the night with his family.

I left out lots of insight from this chapter including interpretations of symbols and visions. I do not completely know what was going on in this vision, but I believe it was very important to Lehi as an individual, and to his family.

The Book of Mormon Project

My name is Brian King. I live in Madison, WI. I am a jack of many trades. I am engaged in many projects, the most recent of which I call the "Book of Mormon Project." I borrowed the idea from a friend of mine Legrand Baker. He has a Book of Mormon Project that he organizes weekly. One difference between mine and his is that he studies one chapter in two months, and I will read and examine one chapter per day. I want to clarify that Legrand is one of the most scholarly people I have ever met in regards to the Book of Mormon. He is a scholarly gold miner who searches in the deepest of caves for precious gems that are found in the Book of Mormon. I read his email updates weekly. Rather than attempting to recreate what he has already put together I decided to start this blog in order to take readers on the Luray Caverns tour of the Book of Mormon. I will read one chapter everyday from August 29, 2009, to July 25, 2010, and then write a daily summary of my findings. Feel free to join me in my exploration of the Book of Mormon.

Brian King