Why Did Jared Ask His Brother to Pray Instead of Praying Himself?

Yesterday, I wrote about the lessons we can learn about coming unto Christ from the brother of Jared. Today, I’d like to explore a more specific question: why did Jared ask his brother to pray for him? Why didn’t he just offer those prayers himself?

Jared and his brother lived at the time of the tower of Babel. They led a group of people away from the tower and across the sea to the American continent, establishing what we know as the Jaredite civilization. From the beginning of their story, we hear about Jared repeatedly asking his brother to petition the Lord on his behalf:

  • “Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words” (Ether 1:34).
  • “Cry again unto the Lord, and it may be that he will turn away his anger from them who are our friends, that he confound not their language” (Ether 1:36).
  • “Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go” (Ether 1:38).

Here are some observations about these requests:

  1. Jared and his brother were a team, and good teams leverage the strengths of each member. Jared was apparently the first person to identify problems and to seek a solution. He even seems to have had a sense of how the prayers were likely to be answered. (“Who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth?” he asked.) His brother was “highly favored of the Lord,” which suggests that Jared thought they had a better chance of receiving a favorable response if his brother was the one doing the asking.
  2. The brother of Jared approached the Lord in an attitude of humility, but he was also willing to make requests which would terrify most of us. (“Touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger…that they may shine forth in darkness.” “Show thyself unto me.”) He was uncommonly fearless in his willingness to petition the Lord for extraordinary blessings. He epitomized the Apostle Paul’s admonition that we should “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). His prayers may have been more effective simply because he was willing to ask. The promise isn’t, “When you need, you will receive.” The promise is, “Ask, and ye shall receive” (John 16:24, 3 Nephi 27:29).
  3. It’s worth noting that prophets have consistently encouraged us to each develop our own personal connection with God, rather than relying on a human intermediary. It is perfectly appropriate for us to lean on one another’s spiritual strength at times, as Jared did in this situation. The Lord told the prophet Joseph Smith in 1831 that some people are blessed to know that Jesus is the Christ, while others are blessed “to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (D&C 46:14). But how will they receive eternal life? By coming to know God for themselves. (See John 17:3.) Moses said, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29) Jeremiah prophesied of a time when no one would challenge other people to know the Lord, “for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them” (Jeremiah 31:34). President Thomas S. Monson said, “It is essential for you to have your own testimony…, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far” (“The Power of the Book of Mormon,” General Conference, April 2017). And just last year, President Russell M. Nelson said, “I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge'” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will be grateful for the examples of Jared and his brother. I will be grateful for friends with great spiritual strength, whom I can ask for help, and whom I can lean on when I’m passing through difficult experiences. I will remember that some blessings come only after I ask for them, and that I should “come boldly to the throne of grace.” I will also remember that each of us needs to learn to communicate directly with God, and that our salvation ultimately depends on our individual relationship with Him.

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What Can We Learn About Coming Unto Christ from the Brother of Jared?

brother_jared_repented_mormon_barrett

The Book of Mormon tells the story of a family who traveled across the ocean to the American continent just after human languages were confounded at the Tower of Babel. The family was led by a man named Jared and by his brother, who is simply called “the brother of Jared” throughout the narrative.

The story of their journey is really a story of a series of prayers.

  1. Jared requests that his brother ask God that their languages not be confounded, so that the two of them can continue to communicate with one another. Why was the brother of Jared the one to offer this prayer? Moroni tells us that it was because he was “highly favored of the Lord.” He did so, and his request was granted (Ether 1:33-35).
  2. Jared then asks his brother to request the same blessing for their friends and family. Again, the brother of Jared prays, and again he receives the blessing he seeks (Ether 1:36-37).
  3. Jared asks his brother to go ask the Lord whether they should leave this place, and if so, where should they go? Unlike the prior two requests, this one requires him to listen for an answer. Jared seems to already have an idea what the Lord will say: “Who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth?” The brother of Jared prays and receives specific instructions. The people are to gather in a specific valley (the valley of Nimrod), where the Lord will give them further instructions. He promises to lead them from that valley to “a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.” He explains that He has given this answer because the brother of Jared has prayed for a long time (Ether 1:38-43).
  4. When they have gathered in the valley, the Lord comes and talks with the brother of Jared. For the first time in the narrative, the brother of Jared is aware of God’s presence, and speaks to Him in close proximity, even though he can’t see Him. (“He was in a cloud, and the brother of Jared saw him not.”) The Lord tells him where the group should travel (Ether 2:4-5).
  5. During their journey, there are many more answered prayers: They are “directed continually by the hand of the Lord” (Ether 2:6).
  6. After arriving at the ocean, they simply stop. For four years, they live in tents on the seashore. They don’t build houses. They don’t put down roots. They don’t ask the Lord what they should do next. They just stay in that spot, in a state of perpetual transience (Ether 2:13).
  7. Finally, the brother of Jared again reaches out to God. The Lord visits him in a cloud and chastens him for three hours “because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.” The Lord then instructs him to have the people build barges and prepare to cross the sea (Ether 2:14-17).
  8. After building the barges, the brother of Jared returns to the Lord with three problems: no light, no air, and no way to steer. The Lord says that He will steer the barges. He provides instructions for how to solve the air problem. And he asks the brother of Jared what he would like to do about the light problem (Ether 2:18-25).
  9. The brother of Jared creates 16 smooth transparent stones. He approaches the Lord and requests that He touch the stones so that they will shine. As the Lord does so, the brother of Jared sees His finger. Shocked to learn that God has a body, he falls to the ground. When the Lord asks if he saw more, he replies, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” He sees the Lord, who ministers to him and shows him “all things” (Ether 3:1-16, 25-26, Ether 12:20-21).

Here are a few of the principles I see in this story:

  1. Just like all of our relationships, we have to invest time and energy to become close to God. It doesn’t happen automatically, and the relationship can weaken if we neglect it.
  2. We earn God’s trust by receiving instructions from Him and acting on those instructions.
  3. Revelation will most likely come incrementally. We need to be prepared to act on the instructions we have received, trusting that God will give us further instructions after we have completed the first ones.
  4. We can have confidence in our prayers, both as we request blessings and as we seek knowledge.
  5. We should continually seek to know what we should do next. We must avoid being “stuck on the beach.”
  6. Our relationship with God can strengthen over time until we know Him as well as the brother of Jared knew Him.

Moroni, who abridged this record, assured us that the brother of Jared’s experience was a pattern which we could follow. Speaking of us, he relayed the following promise from the Lord:

In that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are (Ether 4:7).

Today, I will remember the example of the brother of Jared. As I strive to follow the Book of Mormon admonition to “come unto Christ,” I will remember that it will be an incremental process. I will likely pass through many iterations of asking for blessings, seeking to understand God’s will, and acting upon the instructions I receive from Him. I will trust that this pattern will eventually lead me to the Savior.

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What Are Some Examples of People Coming Unto Christ?

There are several experiences in the Book of Mormon in which people sought the Savior and found His healing power. Today, I want to look at three of those experiences and consider what we can learn from them.

  1. Enos had what he called a “wrestle…before God” before receiving a remission of his sins. His father Jacob was the leader of the church and Enos had heard him teach the gospel many times. On this occasion, he was out hunting when his father’s words “sunk deep into his heart.” As a result, his “soul hungered.” He knelt and prayed all day and into the night. Finally, he heard a voice which said, “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.” Instantly, his “guilt was swept away.” When he asked how this had happened, he was told that it was because of his faith in Christ (Enos 1:1-8).
  2. The people of King Benjamin gathered at the temple to hear a final message from their king. They offered burnt offerings and sat together in families looking toward the temple, where Benjamin stood on a tower to teach them (Mosiah 2:1-7). After hearing the king testify that we can only be saved by having our natures changed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ, they fell to the earth and pleaded with God to “apply the atoning blood of Christ.” The Spirit of the Lord filled them with joy and gave them “peace of conscience.” Mormon tells us that this happened “because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ” (Mosiah 4:1-3).
  3. Alma the Younger, whose father was the high priest, saw an angel who commanded him to stop fighting against the church. “If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed,” the angel said, “seek no more to destroy the church of God.” For two or three days, Alma was unable to move or talk. He was “racked with eternal torment” and “tormented with the pains of hell” as he became painfully aware of the gravity of his sins. Finally, he remembered that his father had taught him that Jesus Christ would atone for his sins. Alma cried out in his heart, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.” Immediately, his pain was gone–replaced by joy. (Mosiah 27:8-24, Alma 36:6-21).

What principles can we learn from these three experiences?

  1. You have to know that you need help. The process begins with a recognition of the gravity of our sins and a desire for them to go away. Our hearts must be broken and our spirits contrite.
  2. You have to know who can help you. Forgiveness doesn’t come just because we feel bad, or just because we recognize that we need help. It comes when we pray for it with faith in Jesus Christ.
  3. It can take time to find Him, but when you do, the healing can be instantaneous. Enos prayed for hours. Alma the Younger suffered for days. But when they were ready, their guilt was “swept away.” The Spirit filled them with peace. Their pain disappeared and was replaced by joy.

Today, I will be grateful for these examples of people coming to the Savior in the Book of Mormon. I will strive to follow their examples by recognizing my need for the Savior and by asking God for forgiveness with faith in Jesus Christ. I will remember that He can heal me instantly, when I am ready to be healed.

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What Do Book of Mormon Prophets Teach Us About Coming Unto the Savior?

Over the last two days, I’ve looked at invitations to come unto Christ in the Book of Mormon. Two days ago, we reviewed Amaleki’s and Moroni’s final admonitions to “come unto Christ.” Yesterday, we looked at passages where the Savior says, “come unto me.”

Today, I’m pondering the passages where prophets use the phrase “come unto him” with reference to the Savior. In the Book of Mormon, there are six of these passages, and they are all in the first six books–the small plates of Nephi.

Here are some principles from those passages:

  • We can have confidence that our efforts to approach the Savior will be successful. Nephi assures us that “the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him. For he that diligently seeketh shall find” (1 Nephi 10:18-19).
  • The Savior will welcome all who seek Him. “He inviteth…all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female…. And all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).
  • We cannot be saved without coming to Him (1 Nephi 13:40). We can’t save ourselves, and no one else is capable of saving us.
  • We learn how to come unto Him by studying the principles of the gospel which are taught in the scriptures. Nephi uses the phrase “the very points of his doctrine,” which suggests that the instructions are precise and clear-cut (1 Nephi 15:14).
  • Coming unto Christ involves total commitment. We must “offer [our]whole souls as an offering unto him” (Omni 1:26).

Today, I will strive to follow the scriptural invitation to draw closer to the Savior. I will remember that He has invited everyone to come, and that we can all do this. I will remember that He is the only one who can save us. And I will remember that coming unto Him requires a total commitment.

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How Does the Savior Invite Us to Come Unto Him?

I mentioned yesterday that the phrase “come unto Christ” appears only five times in the scriptures. In contrast, the Savior says “come unto me” 39 times in the scriptures: once in the Old Testament, six times in the New Testament, four times in the Doctrine and Covenants, and 28 times in the Book of Mormon.

Here are a few principles I’ve learned by looking at these passages:

  • The Savior invites us with patience. His “arm is lengthened out all the day long” (2 Nephi 28:32). He also wants us to continue to invite others, even when they seem unresponsive, “for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them” (3 Nephi 18:32).
  • He doesn’t reject anyone who comes to Him (2 Nephi 26:25, 3 Nephi 18:25).
  • We come to Him by repenting of our sins and being baptized (3 Nephi 21:6, 3 Nephi 27:20, 3 Nephi 30:2, Mormon 3:2, Ether 4:18, Moroni 7:34).
  • We should come to Him with a humble heart, and we should be at peace with others when we come (3 Nephi 12:3, 19-20, 23-24).
  • When we come to Him:
    • We will find rest (3 Nephi 28:3).
    • We will learn things we hadn’t previously been able to understand (Ether 4:13-14).
    • We will recognize our weaknesses, which will make us humble (Ether 12:27).
    • We will eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely, and we will partake of the fruit of the tree of life (Alma 5:34-35).
    • He will save us (3 Nephi 9:14, 22).
    • We will be filled with joy and welcomed into His Father’s kingdom (Enos 1:27, Alma 5:16).

Today, I will be grateful for the Savior’s loving invitation: “Come unto me.” I will be grateful that He receives everyone who comes to Him in humility and peace. I will be grateful for the priceless blessings we receive as we approach Him, including happiness, growth, knowledge, salvation, and joy.

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What Does It Mean to “Come Unto Christ?”

Near the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi tells us that his only purpose in writing is to persuade people to “come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved” (1 Nephi 6:4).

Nephi later explains to his brothers that the purpose of the gospel is to help us “come to the knowledge of [our] Redeemer” and to understand His doctrine, so that we “may know how to come unto him and be saved” (1 Nephi 15:14).

Over the next few days, I’m going to explore the concept of coming to the Savior.

  • What does it mean to come unto Christ?
  • How do we do it?
  • What blessings do we receive as we come to Him?
  • What obstacles prevent us from doing so?

The phrase “come unto Christ” only appears five times in the scriptures (four times in the Book of Mormon and once in the Doctrine and Covenants), although equivalent phrases, like “come unto me” or “come unto him,” appear more frequently. On two occasions in the Book of Mormon, prophets speak directly to us, urging us to come unto Christ. These two occasions are the end of the small plates of Nephi (a self-contained volume included by Mormon without abridgment) and the end of the Book of Mormon.

Here are the two passages, side by side:

Amaleki (the last author of the small plates of Nephi) Moroni (the last author in the Book of Mormon)
And now, my beloved brethren,
I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel,
and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.
Yea, come unto him,
and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him,
and continue in fasting and praying,
and endure to the end;
and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved
(Omni 1:26).
Yea, come unto Christ,
and be perfected in him,
and deny yourselves of all ungodliness;
and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness,
and love God with all your might, mind and strength,
then is his grace sufficient for you,
that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;
and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power,
then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God,
through the shedding of the blood of Christ,
which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins,
that ye become holy, without spot.
(Moroni 10:32-33)

The two passages have a lot in common:

  1. The first step of the process is to come to Christ. We don’t fix ourselves first, and then come to Him. We come to Him so that He can fix us. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said, “Come as you are…[but] don’t plan to stay as you are” (“Songs Sung and Unsung,” General Conference, April 2017).
  2. By choosing to come to Him, we begin to receive His redemptive power. We “partake of his salvation.” We are “perfected in Him.”
  3. Thereafter, a total commitment is required. We must “offer [our] whole souls as an offering to him” and “deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness.”
  4. As we continue to follow Him over time, we have the promise that we will be saved: sanctified and made holy by the grace of God.

Today, I will remember both the immediacy and the sustaining power of this process. Christ’s power begins to flow into our lives the moment we turn to Him. And it continues to bless us and to change us as we continue to follow Him. I will be grateful for the redeeming and sanctifying power of the Savior which can heal us and prepare us to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.

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Why Did God Prevent Adam and Eve from Partaking of the Tree of Life?

After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, God placed “cherubim and a flaming sword” on the east side of the Garden of Eden. These heavenly sentinels ensured that Adam and Eve could not approach the tree of life and partake of its fruit (Moses 4:31, Genesis 3:24). Why was that necessary?

As we discussed earlier this week, the tree of life represents the love of God. On one level, this action simply represented one of the effects of the Fall: Adam and Eve were now subject to spiritual death. They were “cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord: (Alma 42:7, 9). They were going to have to act for themselves and be more independent. God still loved them perfectly, but just as they would now have to work hard to eat, they would also need to struggle to communicate with Him. As Job would later exclaim, “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!” (Job 23:3)

The prophet Alma gave two other reasons why this constraint was necessary. In the city of Ammonihah, after he and his missionary companion Amulek testified of the resurrection, they were challenged by one of the “chief rulers” of the city. He asked the following question (which sounds more like an accusation than a sincere inquiry):

What is this that thou hast said, that man should rise from the dead and be changed from this mortal to an immortal state, that the soul can never die?
What does the scripture mean, which saith that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever? And thus we see that there was no possible chance that they should live forever (Alma 12:20-21)

Ignoring the hostile tone of the question, Alma provided two straightforward answers:

  1. God had told Adam and Eve that, if they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would die. He is always truthful, and so He couldn’t allow them to take an action which would nullify the promised consequence of their action (Alma 12:23-24).
  2. More broadly, if they had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life immediately, they would have been miserable forever, and God’s plan for them would have been thwarted (Alma 12:26-27). They were not ready to come back into His presence. As Amulek taught, God’s purpose is not to save us in our sins but from our sins (Alma 11:34, Helaman 5:10). And as Alma would later explain to his son Corianton, returning to God’s presence without overcoming our sins would not make us happy (Alma 42:5-8). Adam and Eve needed time to repent. They needed time to prepare themselves before becoming immortal and returning to God’s presence. So, what seemed like a restriction was actually a great blessing.

Brad Wilcox, who teaches ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, made the following statement about this event:

The cherubim and flaming sword were not evidence of God’s anger and rejection. Rather, they were evidence of his benevolence and love. This “closed door” existed not to bar Adam and Eve from God but to point them toward the open window of Christ’s atonement, which would enable them to return to God and live with him forever (“Closed Doors and Open Windows,” Ensign, December 1993).

Today, I will be grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who gives me experiences which are designed to lead me to eternal happiness. I will remember that the frustrations and challenges I face can help me to achieve success and happiness.

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