Day 79: The Nature of God

Mormon 9:9

One of the great truths restored to the earth through Joseph Smith in 1820 is the nature of God: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct Beings. They work together in unity as the Godhead to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39, PoG). God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son have resurrected bodies of flesh and bone. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit which enables Him to fulfill his office and responsibilities.

The Book of Mormon sheds further light on the character of God. Moroni teaches in Mormon 9:9, “For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” This recurring theme highlights several additional truths also treated in The Book of Mormon: God had a plan for His children at the creation of the world and He has the same plan today; God offers mercy to all who repent regardless of when they lived on earth; God required baptism before Christ came to earth and He still requires it for entrance to heaven; God fulfills all His words and promises today, just as He has done since the foundation of the world.

But as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I also believe in eternal progression. As eternal beings we have the opportunity to progress and develop to become like God. The implicit notion is that God also continues to progress and develop because, “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be” (President Lorenzo Snow, see article for source).

I remember teaching a very bright young man on my mission and I shared these two seemingly contrary beliefs in the course of a lesson. The young man thought he had caught me in a doctrinal dilemma: How can God be both unchanging AND capable of progression? What I learn from The Book of Mormon and continuing revelation is that God IS God because of core, eternal characteristics. He is goodness personified, honest, just, merciful, and more. God’s core characteristics don’t change but He can and does become more good, more merciful, more loving, more kind, more godlike and more perfect.

One of the things I find so beautiful about the Restored Gospel is that we have the opportunity to grow and progress in like manner to develop those crowning eternal characteristics.

Day 70: Restored Truths and the Importance of The Book of Mormon

3 Nephi 15:16-24 and 1 Nephi 13:40-41

When Jesus appeared to the Nephites and Lamanites in the Americas, He established His identity, His importance to their lives, and His law, the law of Christ. One of the most critical truths for us to understand is that there is “one fold and one shepherd” (3 Nephi 15:21). Jesus personally declared His divinity, His role as Savior and Redeemer, and the primacy of His law. His words in 3 Nephi echo earlier prophetic writings in 1 Nephi that “there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth” (1 Nephi 13:41). This is Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon serves as a second witness of Jesus Christ. It stands alongside the Bible as a testimony of His divinity, it clarifies important points of doctrine such as the need for baptism by immersion by the proper authority, and teaches additional doctrines such as the Plan of Salvation in beautiful simplicity.

The role of Jesus Christ in our lives can be summed up in simple statements of truth. Just as there is one shepherd and one God over all the earth, so is there one plan and one law that apply to everyone on earth: “the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:40). Our purpose on earth is to learn charity, selflessness, to become more like God, to repent when we fall short, to make promises to God, to keep His commandments, and to prepare for eternal life. Jesus Christ set the example and makes all this possible through His Atonement and Resurrection. By following Jesus Christ according to the pattern He set anciently and reestablished through His church today, we choose the path to eternal life.

Day 31: A Testimony of Christ

Mosiah 26

The Book of Mormon is replete with the words of Christ and testimonies of Him from His prophets, angels, missionaries, and disciples. I find the dialogue of Mosiah 26 especially beautiful. The premortal Christ responds personally to Alma the elder’s concerned pleading for help on how best to administer the Church in Zarahemla and deal with apostasy and persecution. I don’t feel the need to embellish this section with too many of my own words so allow me to highlight and make brief comments on the passages that really stand out to me:

  • God makes the all-important statement of existence: “I am the Lord their God” (v. 26)
  • God clarifies His role as the Creator: “it is I that hath created them” (v. 23)
  • He states one of His essential roles: “I am their Redeemer” (v. 26)
  • God testifies of Himself and His supernal role: “it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world” (v. 23)
  • God confirms His power and the qualifications for salvation and exaltation: “it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand” (v. 23)
  • God acknowledges the official organization over which Alma presides: “this is my church” (v. 22)
  • He declares His mercy: “as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (v. 30)

Jesus Christ created our earth and mankind under the direction of His Father. He took upon Himself the conditions of mortality in order to understand what we, His children, experience so that He can best help us. He suffered, bled, and died to make repentance viable, forgiveness possible, and gift Resurrection to everyone who has lived, lives, or will live on the Earth.

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.

Day 15: Righteous judgment

2 Nephi 21:1-5

This prophecy of Jesus Christ describes just some of the attributes that define His divine nature. Wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of God (respect and obedience) are all hallmarks of a righteous character.

The defining of Christ by what He is not in verse three invites a comparison between divine nature and mortal conditions. The five senses define mortality’s obvious means of interacting with the physical world, gathering information, and more. Indeed humans rely on the five senses as necessary and indispensable to gaining knowledge and making judgments about the world around us.

But Christ “shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears” (v. 3, emphasis added). Rather than relying on the standard mortal means of observing, knowing, and judging, Christ relies on His divine characteristics.

This suggests to me that mortal means of seeing and hearing are not fully sufficient to comprehend truth nor to make the best judgments. Luckily for us humans, we can access the divine part of ourselves and further foster Christ’s divine attributes in order to “see,” “hear,” and understand truth. Righteous judgment requires godliness—the divine parts of ourselves coupled with refined, godly characteristics.

Day 14: Justice and Blessings

2 Nephi 15:25

More Isaiah! I’m beginning to see why Nephi felt such an affinity for the writings of Isaiah…maybe just a little. There are so many treasures of knowledge to mine in these chapters. I want to share a thought I had about the justice of God while reading 2 Nephi 15:25.

Isaiah 5, quoted here, begins by laying out a long list of sins. While Isaiah directed his writings toward the ancient children of Israel, this list serves also to inform humankind about temptations common to mortality and to warn against the consequences of sin (choosing to disobey God and give in to these temptations).

In a way, this chapter explores two sides of the justice of the God. God works within an established set of eternal laws, such as consequences follow sin. God helps us keep our spirits safe by providing commandments which, if followed, allow us to reap the benefits of obedience rather than be harmed by the natural consequences of sin. God metes out justice by distributing promised blessings for obedience, and enforcing the consequences of disobedience and sin.

Second Nephi 15:25 explores both the “punishment” side of God’s justice and introduces an important element that enables the “blessing” side of His justice. Verse 25 follows on the heels of the long list of sins God and His prophet have observed among the people and want to warn humankind agains; it confirms the consequence side of God’s justice:

Therefore, is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them; and the hills did tremble, and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets.

Note the factual (if not graphic) account of consequences meted out. It is just of God to enforce the consequences of wickedness. He warns and sends prophets to warn, prophesy, invite repentance, and give people every opportunity to choose obedience and not sin. God is just, therefore He must follow through on the forewarned consequences.

The verse concludes with a confirmation that, yes, God is going to be angry (and sad and disappointed) when people deliberately disobey Him and sin. But it also introduces a note of hope:

For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

It is also justice of another sort that God, in the midst of meting out consequences, offers an opportunity for the wicked to come back; “his hand is stretched out still,” inviting us to repent, to choose to be obedient, and to qualify for blessings. This captures a recurring theme throughout Isaiah of the loving, entreating God who invites His children to repent and turn away from sin. I get the sense from the juxtaposition of ideas in the closing line that He would rather mete out the justice of the good: promised blessings granted for obedience and righteousness.

No matter what we’ve done, we can repent and turn to God. He loves each of us and invites us to change our hearts and behavior through Jesus Christ so that we can qualify not just for blessings in mortality, but for the greatest blessing He can bestow—eternal life.