Day 66: Gadianton Robbers

3 Nephi 2:11

The Gadianton robbers make a sudden and noteworthy reappearance in 3 Nephi 2. They had disappeared from The Book of Mormon narrative after “entrenching themselves in the land” (Helaman 11:26-33) but then didn’t reappear until 3 Nephi 2. It startled me today while reading to have the Gadianton robbers suddenly pop up as a powerful force that threatens to destroy both the Nephite and Lamanite societies.

[T]he Gadianton robbers had become so numerous, and did slay so many of the people, and did lay waste so many cities, and did spread so much death and carnage throughout the land, that it became expedient that all the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, should take up arms against them. (3 Nephi 2:11)

Do I have Gadianton robbers in my own life, I wondered? What things (e.g. influences, past misdeeds) lie dormant in my life that could gather strength and then surface when I reach a weak point in my obedience, spirituality, or mental/emotional/physical health? What evil influences have I allowed to infiltrate my life, however subtilely, that could undermine my peace of mind, my standing before God, my parenting and influence with my children, my ability to serve in the Church, my connection to God?

If I don’t tackle those “Gadianton robbers” now, they could become so entrenched in my life that I’ll have to work overtime to eradicate them. But just as The Book of Mormon teaches repeatedly, I don’t have to fight them relying on my strength alone. If I turn to the Lord, He will help me fight these battles, heal through repentance, and restore my personal equilibrium.

Day 65: No cause for unbelief

Helaman 14:12, 28, 31

I want to connect three separate ideas I came across in Helaman 14. This chapter continues the record of Samuel the Lamanite’s preaching and prophecies to the Nephites. Samuel doesn’t mince words and there are several important truths he proclaims in simple, clarifying terms that come to bear on every person on earth.

The first eternal truth identifies Jesus’ role in the universe. Samuel’s description of the coming Savior as “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things” makes His sacrifice that much more compelling (Helaman 14:12). Our Creator sacrificed HIMSELF for us. He chose to come to earth, live through mortality in extremely humble circumstances, suffer excruciating pain, and endure an ignominious, painful death all for US. I stand all amazed.

A few verses later Samuel reifies this prophetic information by explaining that God will provide sensate proof of its reality and truth. No one has an excuse to not believe because “these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28).

Finally, Samuel the Lamanite concludes his testimony of the Savior and the need to believe in Jesus Christ by reminding the people that they have the power to choose (Helaman 14:31). Even after the testimonies and the signs are given, each person must choose for him-/herself whether or not to believe and act on that belief. If they choose to believe in Christ, they choose life, eternal life through faith, good works, repentance, and consistent effort to follow Jesus Christ.

Day 64: To whom do I give my substance?

Helaman 13:28

Samuel the Lamanite was a remarkable prophet. He appears so bold and fearless in the scriptures, a Lamanite prophet who preaches among the Nephites to call them to repentance. And when the people try to cast him out, stone him, throw him into prison, he goes back according to the Lord’s directions and preaches some more. As part of Samuel’s preaching and prophecy, he condemns the fickleness of the people and points out that they will believe anyone and everything except God’s true prophets and the truth, their belief being manifest in their willingness to pay and support the lifestyle of “anyone”:

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him. (Helaman 13:27-28)

I realized several years ago that how I spend money is a pretty clear indication of what I value. Not only that, but when I buy clothing or other products, I am supporting a brand, the image or values that brand promotes, and the creators/purveyors of that brand and their agenda. As I read Helaman 13:28 I couldn’t help but think of reticence to paying tithing. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we pay 10% of our increase to the Lord and the money is administered by the Church according to God’s direction. Tithing can be a tremendous blessing to those who keep that law. It can be a great sacrifice for many, but it helps refine us in important ways. And I always say, God can do more good with my 10% than I can with my 90%. So, some people have problems paying tithing, that’s not going to be a shock to anyone. I’m not going to comment on those concerns and I certainly don’t want to pass judgment. But if we reflect for a moment on how we spend money (e.g. what clothes we buy, what cable television stations we subscribe to, what magazines we order and read, etc.), we may discover that we’ve been paying “tithing” all along, but to other gods.

This principle holds true as well for how we spend time: how we spend money reflects what we value. If we pay God first, that’s a pretty clear demonstration of priorities and our commitment to Him.

Day 63: Return again

Helaman 13:2-3

At this point in Book of Mormon history, most Lamanites are now baptized and keeping the commandments. A Lamanites by the name Samuel begins preaching in Zarahemla. He warns the people of their imminent destruction but they do not respond well. “[T]hey did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land. But behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people” (Helaman 13:23). Samuel was extremely dedicated to his calling and was highly invested in fulfilling his assignment.

Samuel the Lamanite’s willingness to turn around, not go home, and return to a place he knows he’s not welcome reminds me of a media referral we received in my last city. The young man who requested a copy of the scriptures wasn’t home but his dad answered the door. We started out by leaving the scriptures with the dad; we said our goodbyes and started to walk away. The Spirit told me to go back and knock again. We returned to the home, knocked, and talked to the father again. We ended our doorstep conversation and started walking away. Again, the Spirit told me to go back. I was a little afraid of repeatedly interrupting this man, but I had to follow the Spirit. The man was very nice (perhaps even a little amused). The third time we knocked on his door, we taught him a brief lesson and prayed with him.

There will come a time when God asks you to “return again.” How will you respond?

Day 62: Unwearyingness

Helaman 10:4-12

I was so taken aback as I read these verses in Helaman 10 today. Nephi the former chief judge and now high priest over the church has just gone through an emotionally and spiritually wracking ordeal. The Lord speaks to him, blesses him, and asks him to continue his work. How does Nephi respond?

[N]ow it came to pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about upon the face of the land, and began to declare unto them the word of the Lord…. (Helaman 10:12, emphasis added)

My chief desire as an introvert is always to get home where I feel comfortable and safe. It blows my mind that instead of going home, Nephi goes back out to preach more.

Nephi’s example of unwearying service and missionary work reminds me of an experience from my mission. My companionship was out one night in January doing a special one hour of finding. We had planned the hour several days in advance and had prayed for direction where to go. We had already spent almost our whole hour and curfew approached. The promise of my warm bed and the safety of our apartment beckoned. We completed a row of apartments and my trainer asked if we should keep going or head home. I looked further down the street to see no lights on in any of the apartments, not even on doorsteps. I was tired, cold, and very uncomfortable. We agreed to go home.

The next morning was Sunday. We received a call from our district leaders to say a fax had arrived at the mission office with a note that a woman had recently been baptized and then moved to our city. I became a bundle of emotions when my trainer revealed this sister’s address: the very street we had given up on the night before. In fact, she lived just down and to the right of where we had, with weariness, stopped knocking on doors and headed home.

Oh to be like Nephi who boldly and tirelessly shared the Gospel with as many people as he could. Who, instead of going home to curl up in bed or have a meal, returned to the epicenters of his and other communities to “declare the word of God.”

We all have responsibilities in our lives that we could probably stand to fulfill with a little more unwearyingness. Whether it’s being a better mom, magnifying a church calling, or whatever else I need to work on, I can learn so much from Nephi’s diligence and devotion.

Day 61: Choose to Believe

Helaman 4:23

One of the saddest phrases I have come across during my reading is “and they began to disbelieve” (Helaman 4:23). Speaking of the Nephites, the Book of Mormon writer summarizes their behavior in the lead up to their loss of faith and Gospel knowledge.

This phrase highlighted for me how critical it is to be actively engaged in your faith. Belief takes work. It is a choice we make to believe in the Gospel or not, to believe in Jesus Christ, to believe that there is life after death. Because many of the Nephites made choices to disobey the commandments, to murder, rob and steal, they, in effect, chose not to believe.

Keeping the commandments, serving others, participating in the Church all foster belief. That kind of action reflects a deliberate choice to believe; it is so important to actively growing faith in Jesus Christ.

Day 60: Getting in the Christmas Spirit

Helaman 5:9-12

It’s been many years since it really felt like Christmas to me. I lost that childlike sense of wonder and anticipation as a pre-teen. Ever since I have had a love-hate relationship with the holiday. I look forward to the secular aspects of Christmas like wassail and home baked goods, festive decorations and procuring presents for loved ones, listening to my favorite Christmas music (which can also be a spiritual experience). But the holiday never feels quite right. I tend to be snippier and prone to outbursts or terseness. The commercialism depresses me. I often feel a let down or anti-climax on Christmas Day.

For the first time in many years, while reading the Book of Mormon this morning, I felt something well up in me that I can only describe as the true spirit of Christmas.

In Helaman 5, the brother-prophets Lehi and Nephi begin their joint ministry among the Nephites and Lamanites. They recall a specific teaching moment from their past in which their father bore a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ.

9 O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.

10 And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.

11 And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls. (Helaman 5:9-11)

There is no better way to get in the true spirit of Christmas than to read the Book of Mormon (and serve others, perhaps through #LightTheWorld). The Book of Mormon teaches us how to access the Atonement of Jesus Christ, more about God’s plan of happiness, the need for repentance, examples of prophets and others who exemplify Christ-centered living.

As I read about Christ’s saving power, I felt the need deep in my heart to celebrate the greatest gift ever given.

Day 59: Belief and Action

Helaman 3:27-30

I felt so moved this morning as I read the Book of Mormon writer’s (I think it’s Mormon here) reflections on the miracle of the Savior’s saving power.

Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked–

And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

I’m not going to try to embellish these verses but I do want to point out a few of the phrases that struck me so forcefully.

  • “The Lord is merciful unto ALL” and “the gate of heaven is open to AlL”
  • We must be sincere as we lay claim on God’s mercy
  • Being saved requires that we believe in Jesus Christ and “lay hold upon the word of God,” act on our belief
  • The word of God cuts through the distractions and temptations of this life
  • Our goal in this life should be to become women and men of Christ
  • Laying hold upon the word of God, acting on our belief/faith, will “land our immortal souls” in the kingdom of heaven
  • If we follow the strait and narrow course to the kingdom of God, we will have the peace of dwelling “in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23)

I am so grateful for the Savior Jesus Christ, for His mercy, His love for ALL God’s children, His Atonement, His saving power, and His invitation to follow Him and receive the gift of eternal life.

Day 58: Remembering

Alma 62:49-50

Memory is a really important concept in the scriptures. We are meant to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, OT), to “always remember” Jesus Christ (Mormon 4-5, BoM), “and to remember his holy covenant” (Luke 1:72, NT). Remembering should impel us to action such as doing sabbath appropriate activities; fostering thoughts of Christ to influence our day-to-day choices and behavior; making choices in keeping with our covenants.

Following Captain Moroni’s successful conclusion of the war, Nephite society began again to flourish. Many people became wealthy and the society as a whole prospered. Usually this spells disaster for the Nephites “[but] notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes…” (Alma 62:49). The crucial difference between pride and humility? Remembering.

The Nephites were not “slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him” (ibid.). Part of remembering God seems to include a present awareness of His existence and one’s relationship to Him. Keeping God present in our thoughts helps us keep an accurate perspective on mortality. Also, the Nephites

“did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies” (Alma 62:50).

By maintaining a present and active awareness of God through memory, the Nephites stayed humble, they prospered temporally, their society expanded, and they received many blessings from God.

One additional thought I’ve been mulling over is how I experience joy every time I remember something specific God has done for me. That feeling of joy improves my life in the moment but also motivates me to active gratitude through obedience and careful covenant keeping.

What experiences have you had that bring you joy in the process of remembering them? How could more intentional “remembering” make God more present in your life?

Further Reading

Henry B. Eyring, “O Remember Remember,” General Conference (Oct 2007).

Day 57: And I Will Remember It No More

Alma 59-62

I’ve been struggling the last few weeks with some bitterness over a dispute. We feel like we’re being taken advantage of, but it feels unChristian to pursue legal action. And so, every day, I get caught up in a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings that range from regret to disbelief that they could be so unkind to anger over their unjust treatment of us to bitterness that justice will only be served if we do them an unkindness in return.

It’s tough to admit but I’ve been caught in this cycle before. I hold on to wrongs done me until they canker on my soul. I know I need to resolve in myself to forgive and forget, but what about justice?!

Captain Moroni and I seem to be on the same page these days. Alma 59 and 60 comprise the culmination of Captain Moroni’s history. Throughout the war chapters we get little notes that Moroni wrote to the government for supplies, reinforcements, etc., but the government has stopped answering his letters. Moroni reaches a point of anger and desperation in which he threatens to use his military forces to overthrow the government. He feels like the government is being unjust, he feels like he isn’t receiving the support he needs to reach the objectives of the campaign, he feels like he’s letting the army down and putting them at terrible risk.

When the chief governor finally writes back to reveal that he has had to escape from Zarahemla due to local divisions and rebellions, Moroni forgets his anger and rushes to aid Pahoran.

I was touched by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at a friend’s service of lessons and carols tonight: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6; Luke 11, NT). When we petition the Lord for forgiveness, He requires that we must forgive others. The Lord also promises that if we repent of our sins/trespasses, He will remember them no more (D&C 58:42; Hebrews 10:17, NT; Jeremiah 31:34, OT). As I have learned in the past, the greater sin lies with me when I refuse to forgive. It drains my emotional and spiritual strength, the issue becomes distracting and all-consuming, and it makes me very unhappy.

Captain Moroni could have sought for justice but instead he quickly forgave and rushed to the aid of the chief governor. Rather than becoming bitter over Pahoran’s lack of communication and the cost to the army, Moroni focuses on fulfilling his objective and role as captain of the army.

Perhaps it’s time for me to focus on my objectives rather than let anger and bitterness overtake me. My objectives to raise my children well, who become steadfast and firm in the faith, don’t rely on our rental dispute being resolved. But my children could benefit from our example of forgiveness. And they will benefit from me being less distracted and angry! It’s probably time to let go, forgive those who trespassed against us, and move on.