Jacob’s Second Sermon – Jacob 2-3

Jacob wide

Setting

Shortly after the death of his brother, Nephi, Jacob delivered this sermon. He didn’t enjoy delivering it, but he knew it was his responsibility to do so, because of his calling as a priest and a teacher (Jacob 1:17-19).

Purpose

Jacob’s objective was to urge the people of Nephi to repent of two sins which were beginning to appear among them: pride and adultery.

Outline

  1. Introduction: I am under obligation to deliver this message to you (Jacob 2:2-11).
  2. Pride: “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance” (Jacob 2:12-19).
  3. Adultery: “There shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none” (Jacob 2:20-35).
  4. To the pure in heart: “Look unto God with firmness of mind…, and he will console you in your afflictions” (Jacob 3:1-2).
  5. To the impure: Follow the example of your enemies, the Lamanites, who are building strong families (Jacob 3:3-10).
  6. Final plea: Wake up and repent (Jacob 3:11).

My Takeaways

This sermon is fundamentally about relationships:

Today, I will improve my relationships with other people. I will choose to see all people as equal—valued sons and daughters of God. I will take seriously the trust my family has placed in me as a husband and a father. And I will make an effort to learn from and celebrate the positive attributes of the people around me.

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Jacob’s First Sermon – 2 Nephi 6-10

Jacob wide

Setting

Shortly after Nephi and his people separated themselves from the families of Laman and Lemuel, Nephi’s brother Jacob spoke to them. He told them that Nephi had asked him to explain some of the words of Isaiah.

Purpose

Jacob’s purpose in delivering this sermon was to help the people understand the gathering of Israel and to recognize that it was relevant to them.

Outline

  1. Introduction: I’m anxious for your welfare (2 Nephi 6:2-5).
  2. Jacob quotes and explains Isaiah 49:22-23: “Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and…queens thy nursing mothers.” The people in Jerusalem have already been taken captive. Eventually, God will bring them home, and the Gentiles will help (2 Nephi 6:6-15).
  3. Jacob quotes Isaiah 49:24-26, 50, 51, 52:1-2: God has power to deliver you. Don’t give up on Him (2 Nephi 6:16-18, 7, 8).
  4. These blessings will come to your children. Through the Atonement, the Savior will overcome both physical and spiritual death (2 Nephi 9:1-27).
  5. But those who harden their hearts, including the rich and the learned, will fail to receive the blessings God is offering them (2 Nephi 9:27-38).
  6. The invitation: turn away from your sins, and turn to God (2 Nephi 9:39-49).
  7. Jacob quotes Isaiah 55:1-2: God wants to bless you (2 Nephi 9:50-54).
  8. [Day 2] How the gathering applies to us: God’s promises extend to all those who are scattered, including those of us who are on “the isles of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:1-22).
  9. Conclusion and admonition: Reconcile yourselves to God’s will so that you can be saved by His grace (2 Nephi 10:23-25).

My Takeaways

What does the gathering of Israel mean to me? As Jacob taught his people in this sermon, the prophecies of Isaiah on this topic are not merely abstractions about a distant people in another time. They are applicable to my life today. After reviewing Jacob’s words, I can think of at least three ways to apply these prophecies in my life:

  1. Every time I help another person grow closer to God, I am participating in the gathering of Israel. President Russell M. Nelson recently told the youth of the Church, “Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that.” (“Hope of Israel,” Worldwide Youth Devotional, 3 June 2018). I can participate in the gathering by inviting other people to take actions which will bring them closer to God.
  2. God sometimes scatters some of His children so that He can gather others. When I find myself in uncomfortable circumstances, I can ask myself, “Why has God placed me here? Whom can I serve?” I can have confidence that God has the power to save me and the people around me.
  3. The scattering and gathering of Israel are symbolic of the effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. I am subject to physical and spiritual death, which have distanced me from God. But like scattered Israel, I can remember that, through God’s grace, I can be reconciled to Him. As Jacob teaches in this sermon, I need to overcome pride, which would hold me back from accepting God’s help.
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[He Hath] Chastened Them Because He Loveth Them – Helaman 15:3

3 Yea, wo unto this people who are called the people of Nephi except they shall repent, when they shall see all these signs and wonders which shall be showed unto them; for behold, they have been a chosen people of the Lord; yea, the people of Nephi hath he loved, and also hath he chastened them; yea, in the days of their iniquities hath he chastened them because he loveth them.
(Helaman 15:3)

We all know that correction is part of true love. A “friend” who never advises or warns us, who always tells us we’re doing great even when we’re making a terrible mistake, isn’t much of a friend at all. Why would we expect God, who loves us with a perfect love, to withhold information that would benefit us, even if we don’t want to hear it?

As Elder D. Todd Christofferson has reminded us, “Our Heavenly Father is a God of high expectations…. If we are to meet our Heavenly Father’s high expectations, [we need to] willingly…accept and even seek correction…. Though it is often difficult to endure, truly we ought to rejoice that God considers us worth the time and trouble to correct” (“As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten,” General Conference, April 2011).

At work, we’ve been holding mid-year review meetings. Each employee meets with their manager to discuss their performance so far this year and to talk about expectations for the rest of the year. I have given both positive and corrective feedback to my employees, and have been so grateful for the attitude in which the feedback was received. I believe that a key reason for the success of my team is the willingness of team members to accept correction graciously and non-defensively and to act on it.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6). And speaking for the Lord, the Apostle Paul wrote, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Revelation 3:19). In the following verse, the Lord tells us that he stands knocking at the door, waiting for us to open so that He can bless us. Perhaps one way He knocks is by giving us correction, and we open by accepting and acting on that correction willingly.

Today, I will recognize God’s chastening as a sign of His love for me. I will strive to accept His correction, and even seek it. I will remember that God has high expectations of us because He loves us and knows what we can become with His help.


To my readers: the next few days, my posts will have a different format. Instead of selecting a specific passage from the scriptures, I’m going to provide an overview of some of the sermons in the Book of Mormon which we have covered in June and July. My hope is that looking at the big picture will give us new insights into the messages and the priorities of the authors. I hope you will find these posts interesting, and I welcome your feedback. – Paul

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Ye Are Angry with Me – Helaman 14:10

10 And now, because I am a Lamanite, and have spoken unto you the words which the Lord hath commanded me, and because it was hard against you, ye are angry with me and do seek to destroy me, and have cast me out from among you.
(Helaman 14:10)

In the prior chapter, Samuel the Lamanite explained to the Nephites in Zarahemla the hazard of only listening to people you are familiar with, telling you things you want to hear. He had observed that they rejected God’s prophets who told them to repent but upheld false prophets who told them to do whatever they wanted (Helaman 13:26-28).

Now, he points out to them that they are following precisely that pattern. Because he is a Lamanite, and because his message is not pleasant, they have responded badly. They were angry. They tried to kill him. They told him to leave.

In contrast, consider the response of President Henry B. Eyring last year when President Monson urged members of the Church to study the Book of Mormon:

Like many of you, I heard the prophet’s words as the voice of the Lord to me. And, also like many of you, I decided to obey those words….
I have read the Book of Mormon every day for more than 50 years. So perhaps I could have reasonably thought that President Monson’s words were for someone else. Yet, like many of you, I felt the prophet’s encouragement and his promise invite me to make a greater effort. Many of you have done what I did: prayed with increased intent, pondered scripture more intently, and tried harder to serve the Lord and others for Him.
The happy result for me, and for many of you, has been what the prophet promised. Those of us who took his inspired counsel to heart have heard the Spirit more distinctly. We have found a greater power to resist temptation and have felt greater faith in a resurrected Jesus Christ, in His gospel, and in His living Church.
In a season of increasing tumult in the world, those increases in testimony have driven out doubt and fear and have brought us feelings of peace. (“Fear Not to Do Good,” General Conference, October 2018).

Today, I will follow the example of President Eyring by being open to the words of living prophets. I will be careful to avoid the fallacy of listening only to the messages that I want to hear. Instead, I will seek to recognize truth and follow it, even when it requires me to change.

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Your Desolation Is Already Come Upon You – Helaman 13:32

32 And in the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts.
(Helaman 13:32)

Our mortal life is designed in a way that creates a space between many of our decisions and their consequences. Some decisions, like touching a hot oven, have immediate consequences, and we tend to choose wisely in those cases. But for many of our other decisions, there is a delay between the decision and the consequence. That delay is part of what makes this life a “probationary state” (Alma 12:24, Alma 42:4). Because we don’t experience the full punishment for our bad decisions immediately, we have time to repent voluntarily. But we will only do this if we have the foresight to recognize that consequences are coming and that we need help.

In the first chapter of Isaiah, the prophet speaks about future consequences in the present tense:

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city (Isaiah 1:7-8).

His goal was to help his people visualize the direction they were heading and take corrective action now, before it was too late. (See Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1982, pp. 74-75.)

Likewise, in the passage above, Samuel the Lamanite warns the people that desolation, destruction, and poverty are in their future. When the consequences come, they will cry for deliverance, but it will be too late. The time to plead for deliverance is now, before the consequences occur.

Today, I will remember that the consequences of my actions in this life are delayed for a reason—so that I can exercise faith and freely choose repentance. I will strive to see clearly the future consequences of my current actions and let those consequences motivate me as though they were immediate. I will choose to repent now rather than wait for the consequences of my actions to be evident.

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I Am an Honest Man – Helaman 9:36

36 And then shall he say unto you, that I, Nephi, know nothing concerning the matter save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God.
(Helaman 9:36)

Nephi’s neighbors were highly resistant to his message of repentance. As we saw yesterday, the most obstinate among them tried to damage his credibility by pointing out that he was alone. He countered by reminding them of numerous prophets who had taught the same principles he was teaching.

Nephi then provided an undeniable demonstration that he was a man of God. He told them that their chief judge had been murdered, and he later provided them with enough information to identify the murderer and get him to confess. Nephi’s intention was to restore his own credibility, so that they would take seriously his message. “Then shall ye know that I am an honest man,” he says, “and that I am sent to you from God.”

Everything happened just as Nephi said it would, and the people no longer doubted his words. But they still were not willing to humble themselves and repent, not until they experienced a severe famine which convinced them of the seriousness of their situation. At that point, they knew where to turn for help. They “began to plead with their chief judges and their leaders, that they would say unto Nephi: Behold, we know that thou art a man of God, and therefore cry unto the Lord our God that he turn away from us this famine” (Helaman 11:8). Seeing that they were repentant, Nephi pleaded with God on their behalf, the famine ended, and the people rejoiced and recognized Nephi “as a great prophet, and a man of God” (Helaman 11:18).

Nephi’s integrity was critical throughout this process. Even though it took the people some time to acknowledge him as a man of God, and even longer to be willing to do what he taught, his steadiness and consistent integrity was critical to their eventual repentance.

Joseph F. Smith taught that a high priest should

set an example before the old and young worthy of emulation, and…place himself in a position to be a teacher of righteousness, not only by precept but more particularly by example–giving to the younger ones the benefit of the experience of age, and thus becoming individually a power in the midst of the community in which he dwells (quoted by President Dallin H. Oaks in “The Powers of the Priesthood,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will remember the importance of consistent integrity as I teach others. As Nephi’s story illustrates, my steady example can serve as a beacon which may be more impactful over time than my words.

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There Were Many Before the Days of Abraham – Helaman 8:18

18 Yea, and behold I say unto you, that Abraham not only knew of these things, but there were many before the days of Abraham who were called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son; and this that it should be shown unto the people, a great many thousand years before his coming, that even redemption should come unto them.
(Helaman 8:18)

Nephi’s enemies wanted to portray him as an isolated individual, out of touch with reality and dangerous to the social order. They tried to convince the people to reject him by saying “Why do you suffer this man to revile against us?” (Helaman 8:5) A similar tactic was used by the inhabitants of Ammonihah to disparage the teachings of Alma the Younger: “Who art thou? Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man?” (Alma 9:2) And King Noah’s initial response to Abinadi was the same: “Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him?” (Mosiah 11:27) When people can’t reasonably refute an unpleasant message, their first instinct is often to attack the messenger, particularly when the messenger is alone. “How can one person be more right than all of us?” seems to be their argument. Fortunately for Nephi, enough of his listeners defended him that he was able to continue his sermon.

Nephi listed a number of ancient prophets whose words the people knew: Moses, Abraham, Zenock, Ezias, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and their own ancestors Lehi and Nephi had all taught the same principles he was teaching. In the passage above, he further appealed to additional prophets before the time of Abraham who held the priesthood and who knew the plan of salvation. Echoing the words of Alma to the people of Ammonihah, he described these ancient prophets as being “called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son” so that the people of their day would understand the plan of salvation. (See Alma 13:1-2.)

By identifying so many prior prophets, Nephi effectively refuted the assertion of his enemies that he was acting alone and that he was out of touch with reality. He was in fact in very good company. His fellow laborers were among the most powerful spiritual leaders in history. He recognized, as did the prophet Elisha, that he had numerous unseen allies even though he appeared to be outnumbered (2 Kings 6:16).

President Thomas S. Monson urged us to have courage in defending the truth:

As we go about living from day to day, it is almost inevitable that our faith will be challenged. We may at times find ourselves surrounded by others and yet standing in the minority or even standing alone concerning what is acceptable and what is not. Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs, even if by so doing we must stand alone? As holders of the priesthood of God, it is essential that we are able to face—with courage—whatever challenges come our way. Remember the words of Tennyson: “My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure” (“Dare to Stand Alone,” General Conference, October 2011).

Today, I will have the courage to stand up for true principles even if those principles are rejected by many of the people around me. I will remember that, in defending the truth, I am actually in good company, no matter how lonely I may feel. As Nephi reminded his neighbors, a defender of the truth stands with the great spiritual leaders of the past, and therefore is not alone.

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