Day 86: The truth of all things

Moroni 10:1-7

I finished reading The Book of Mormon! I love Moroni’s promise that if we ask God, He will confirm the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon to us.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5)

I have felt the Holy Ghost testify to me consistently throughout my reading these past few months. I know The Book of Mormon is the word of God. It stands hand in hand with the Bible to witness that Jesus is the Christ, that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are real, that they have a plan for us, that salvation is available through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.

If you want to learn for yourself if The Book of Mormon is true, read it. The Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead, will testify to you in a way you will understand that it is the word of God. Remember that Jesus promised the Holy Ghost, “the Spirit of truth,” “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13, NT). You can recognize the presence of Holy Ghost by its fruits. The Holy Ghost brings feelings of and inspires “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [m]eekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23, NT). Sometimes when the Spirit testifies of truth it clashes with preconceived notions and contradicts previously held beliefs. This can be jarring, uncomfortable, and off-putting. I invite you to push through those initial feelings to draw nearer to God, to discover God’s plan for you, to find greater happiness, to strengthen your family, to receive the promise of eternal life.

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him. (Moroni 10:32)

Day 84: The Nature of Good and Evil

Moroni 7:12-17

I remember one day on my mission my companion and I decided to go finding in a large city park near our apartment. We took a baseball and bat thinking we could start a game and meet new people who might be interested in learning more about Jesus Christ. On the way to the park we stopped to talk to a couple on the sidewalk. We introduced ourselves, extending a simple invitation to listen to our message. The woman looked at our baseball and bat and said something to the effect of, “with all the terrible things in the world, I can’t believe there’s a God. You would be better off playing baseball in the park than trying to teaching people about something that doesn’t exist.” The woman’s attitude might sound familiar to many of you. Lots of people argue that the plethora of “bad things” in the world is definitive proof God doesn’t exist. They argue that “god” would never let so many terrible things happen.

The prophet Mormon’s discourse from Moroni 7 clarifies the nature of good and evil. “[All] things which are good cometh of God” (Moroni 7:12). Kindness, charity, love, happiness, joy, good works, all come from God because He inspires them (Moroni 7:13). He is the definition of good. Satan also exists and he is the exact opposite of God (Moroni 7:12, 17). Satan inspires wickedness, anger, breaking God’s commandments, being unkind, cheating, lying, stealing.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. (Moroni 7:16)

Every person on earth has agency, the ability to reason, make choices, and act. We, every individual on earth, must choose between good (God) and evil (Satan). Many of the “bad things” that happen on earth are the result of individual choices. God will never take away nor compel a person’s agency. Individuals are responsible for their choices, not God. God’s commandments teach us responsible ways to use our agency; they are designed to maximize the good in our lives as well as bring eternal happiness and joy.

In addition, many “bad things” that happen on earth, like natural disasters, come as the result of natural laws. God sometimes steps in to protect individuals, families, and groups that are living righteously and have sought His help. He often won’t change circumstances or take away “bad things,” but He can strengthen us to endure and overcome, and He does make amazing blessings available to those who trust in Him.

If we want to see more good in the world, it’s up to us to choose good and do good. It’s our responsibility to seek out God and supplicate His help for increased strength and ability to become a force for good in our families, our communities, and our world.

Day 72: Labor exceedingly

3 Nephi 19:1-3

I find it so instructive and inspiring how the Nephites and Lamanites reacted to the appearance of Jesus Christ among them in the Americas. By chapter 19, Jesus has appeared and provided ample proof of His identity to the people (3 Nephi 11:1-17); instructed them (3 Nephi 11:28-41; 11:12-15); called and set apart disciples (3 Nephi 11:18-26); prophesied (3 Nephi 16); ministered to the children (3 Nephi 17:11-25); healed the sick (3 Nephi 17:7-10); instituted the sacrament (3 Nephi 18:1-12); and more. He ascends into heaven at the end of the day, promising to return the next day.

And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ascended into heaven, the multitude did disperse, and every man did take his wife and his children and did return to his own home.

And it was noised abroad among the people immediately, before it was yet dark, that the multitude had seen Jesus, and that he had ministered unto them, and that he would also show himself on the morrow unto the multitude. (3 Nephi 19:1-2)

The people who have already seen Jesus don’t just go home to bed. They spread the word eagerly across the land that Jesus has come and that He will come back the next day. This got me thinking: I have come to know the Savior in my own life through various experiences, scripture study, and prayer, but have I done my part to share that with others? Have I “noised abroad” all the good He has brought into my life? Have I made sure that my friends and family know where and how to find Jesus for themselves?

Yea, and even all the night it was noised abroad concerning Jesus; and insomuch did they send forth unto the people that there were many, yea, an exceedingly great number, did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude. (3 Nephi 19:3)

As I continue to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, live it, and practice my religion daily, I think on the Nephites and Lamanites who did not see Jesus when He first appeared. They heard about the miraculous appearance after it had happened (at night) and many of them “did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude” (ibid.). Do I “labor exceedingly” to be in the places, doing the things, that will allow me to “meet the Savior,” to increase my knowledge and testimony of Jesus Christ? We know that prior to Christ’s arrival in the Americas, much of the infrastructure had been destroyed (e.g. roads, cities, etc.); I can only imagine that it was very difficult to travel from nearby regions, let alone from great distances. And, yet, the people heard that Jesus would be in Bountiful and they worked hard––through the night!––to get there in time.

I can follow the example of the Nephites and Lamanites. I can do a better job of sharing my testimony and knowledge of Jesus Christ with everyone. I can do better getting to the temple monthly, making time to study the scriptures, preparing Family Home Evening lessons, and researching the new family home study program. Just as the Nephites and Lamanites witnessed great miracles as a result of their diligent efforts to share and be where Jesus would be, we will experience great spiritual growth and witness miracles in our own lives.

Day 44: Faith, Evidence, and Knowledge

Alma 30:15

Faith, evidence, and knowledge are big topics that require a much more in-depth treatment. I’m sure someone else much smarter and more eloquent has done that already, but this issue came up for me last year and I wanted to share a few (very) brief thoughts since Korihor treads on the subject in Alma 30.

In Alma 30, Korihor pops up as an example of an Anti-Christ, someone who tries to destroy the Church by preaching the Christ doesn’t exist. He is not successful for many reasons, including that God is real and the church Alma established under God’s authority had a lot of very committed members. One of Korihor’s arguments in verse 15 lays the claim that “ye cannot know of things which ye do not see.” God requires us to accept as true many, many things that we cannot see. We accept that He exists, without seeing Him. We accept that Jesus Christ is real, without seeing Him. We accept that the Resurrection will happen, that our sins can be forgiven, that baptism is necessary for salvation, all without “seeing” proof. Korihor specifically denies the possibility of gaining knowledge without using physical senses to obtain evidence.

The Book of Mormon teaches that knowledge of God and things pertaining to God come through means other than the five senses. Such knowledge comes through faith, prayer, fasting, studying God’s word, and acting on God’s word as revealed by His prophets. The scriptures suggest that a spiritual witness provides just as good or better evidence than what we can obtain through our physical senses. In Hebrews 11:1 (NT) the Apostle Paul teaches that “faith…is the evidence of things not seen.” When considered in tandem with Alma 32, Paul’s point could be that having and acting on faith in something true but not visible brings forth evidence for its truthfulness. And as Alma teaches, acting on faith in a particular principle will ultimately provide you with knowledge about that thing. Faith doesn’t require evidence but it can provide evidence. Faith and evidence can coexist. And while knowledge develops as a result of an exercise of faith, we continue to exercise our faith to grow our knowledge base of God, truth, and eternity.

Day 37: Being True to God

Alma 11:22

Alma and Amulek’s face-off with the citizens of Ammonihah contains powerful testimony about the Savior from two of the Book of Mormon’s great missionaries. As I read about their interactions with Zeezrom, their chief interlocutor and one of Ammonihah’s leading community figures, I saw a clear application to our day.

In verse 22 Zeezrom sets up what he thinks will be an easy way to destroy Alma and Amulek’s preaching and all “that which was good” (v. 21). He offers Amulek six onties of silver (an onti was the highest value coinage in their society) to “deny the existence of a Supreme Being” (v. 22). Amulek’s testimony of God had become an important part of his character since meeting Alma. He valued the knowledge imparted by the angel who visited him, and he valued the goodness and blessings that God’s prophet (Alma) had brought to him and his household. So, in this moment, what did Amulek value more? Money or his knowledge, testimony, and self-respect?

What do we value today? Do we value our character? Our good name or reputation? What about virtue, honesty, or serving our neighbor? We are faced with Zeezrom-like offers every day, but Satan has increased their subtlety to the point where I think many of us don’t even recognize that we have traded something of eternal value for something of only fleeting worth.

We trade purity for the sating of curiosity. We trade self-respect for something material we want now. We trade a day’s or week’s labor for a promise of “winning big.” We trade the peace of home and the strength marriage for impersonal, physical gratification. We trade our health for a moment of pleasure. We trade agency for something we want now but can’t have. We trade future health and potential prosperity for brief, out-of-body experiences. We trade spiritual sensitivity and bodily strength for a few hours of fun. We trade godly standards for popularity. We trade honesty and integrity for the promise of “getting ahead.” We trade time to have some impersonal fun or entertainment with no tangible benefit. We trade commitment to God’s laws in order to sate ego.

As I read Alma 11:22 I realized that Satan’s subtlety has deceived me many times and led me to trade things of eternal value and significance for things that have no value in the long run. And in so many cases, the thing we trade for is just a counterfeit of what God offers us if we keep His commandments and remain true to Him. It is never wise nor eternally profitable to trade testimony, knowledge, agency, health, or peace of mind for worldly, material, and temporary things.

Like Amulek, let’s be true to God and honor the many gifts He has given us, not least of which are our agency, peace, even the air we breathe, life itself, and the promise of eternal life (see Mosiah 2:21, BoM). Let’s be true to God by being true to our best selves, the divine part of us that endures into eternity.

Day 25: Choose to Believe

Mosiah 8:20-21

O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them!

Yea, they are as a wild flock which fleeth from the shepherd, and scattereth, and are driven, and are devoured by the beasts of the forest.

In my quest to become a disciple of Jesus Christ (to be serviceable and obedient), I have noticed my own predilection for contrariness. A big part of me fights against being obedient, following the promptings of the Spirit, and desiring godly things enough to act. For example, I knew I needed to serve a mission for a long time before I could bring myself to even fill out the paperwork. As I tried to bring myself around to this personal commandment, I began praying for a desire to serve. Like Ammon exclaimed to Limhi in Mosiah 8:20, the Lord suffered long with me: He was patient and kind and helped me prepare to serve well even as I “fled” from Him.

The Prophet Brigham Young taught that sometimes members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “live far beneath [their] privileges” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. by John A. Widtsoe [1954], 32; qtd in New Testament Teacher Manual, Lesson 30). Certainly Ammon thought so of humankind in general! And while God will suffer long with us because He loves us, if we want to learn the mysteries of God, gain wisdom, and achieve our greatest potential, we have to choose to believe, we have to act out of an inner desire to learn and achieve.

I know from experience that the path of discipleship is no cake walk. Maybe you, like me, “tremble inwardly at what may be required” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance”, General Conference [Apr. 2002]). But, whatever you do, don’t run away! Choose to believe, pray for a desire to believe if you need to. The Lord will suffer long with you and He will help you not only become your best self, but He will help you achieve marvelous good in this life and receive eternal life in the next.

Day 21: A Personal Relationship with God

Enos 1

The Book of Enos has so much to offer, even in its brevity it is chock full of Gospel insights, not to mention the implicit example of Enos living the Gospel. This time around, I really honed in on Enos’ personal relationship with God, which provides a striking example of the relationship we could each individually foster.

The first part of the Book of Enos records his conversion and calling as a prophet. In this experience Enos prays for his own salvation, the salvation of his people the Nephites, and the salvation of his enemies the Lamanites. It is in the process of seeking for a confirmation from God that He will do everything possible to redeem the Lamanites that we see a pattern for our own relationships with God.

In verse 15 Enos states that he has an initial knowledge on which to act, born of faith in God. He knows that, “Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive it in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.” He knows this because the Lord told him directly: “for he had said unto me…” (emphasis added). Enos did NOT write “the Lord said” or “he had said,” but rather “he had said unto me.” And because Enos had this direct knowledge from the Lord––that if he exercised faith in Jesus Christ and believed that he could receive from God what he asked for, then he would get it––he acted on this knowledge to ask for something specific: “I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records” (v. 16). Enos fostered his relationship with God by praying “continually,” he acted on the knowledge he had already received, and he communed with God directly: “and he covenanted with me that he would bring them [the records] forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time” (v. 16).

Enos had developed his knowledge of and relationship with God so thoroughly that his “faith began to be unshaken in the Lord” (v. 11). So much so that by verse 17 Enos KNOWS beyond a shadow of a doubt that God does everything He says He will. “And I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant with he had made….” What a powerful testimony from Enos that we can trust in the Lord because He will fulfill all His words and promises. In a way, Enos’ pattern of faith, knowledge, ask for more was a way of “proving” the Lord, or creating the opportunity for Him to demonstrate His existence, power, and integrity.

Following Enos’ example, we, too, can develop unshaken faith in God and have a personal relationship with Him. Like Enos, we can use our faith and knowledge to partner with God in serving His children and helping them gain salvation.