What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About the Resurrection?

Today, I reviewed all 35 passages in the Book of Mormon which use the word “resurrection.” Here are some of the principles I saw:

  1. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, we will all die (2 Nephi 9:6). There is no way for us to overcome the consequences of this without divine intervention (2 Nephi 2:8, Mosiah 16:7-8). Both death and resurrection are part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for us (Alma 12:24-25).
  2. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ made it possible for Him to overcome physical death (2 Nephi 9:22, Mosiah 18:2, Alma 16:19-20, Alma 21:9, Alma 33:22).
  3. Our spirit and our body will be reunited after we die, and our body will be restored to its perfect form. After that, our body will no longer be subject to corruption. It will be perfect and immortal (Alma 11:42-45, Alma 40:23, Alma 41:2).
  4. It’s important for people to know this, because it affects our daily decisions. A belief in the resurrection empowers us to overcome our fear of death (Mosiah 16:7-8, Alma 4:14, Alma 27:28, Mormon 7:5-6). This is why prophets have consistently taught the doctrine of the resurrection (2 Nephi 26:3, Mosiah 13:35, Alma 16:19-20, Alma 21:9, 3 Nephi 6:20).
  5. We will all be resurrected, but not all at the same time (Alma 12:8). The righteous will be resurrected first, “unto life and happiness.” Those who have rebelled against God will be resurrected “unto damnation” (Jacob 4:11-12, Mosiah 15:20-26, Mosiah 16:11, Mosiah 18:9, Alma 40:15-17, 3 Nephi 26:5, Moroni 7:41).
  6. We will all return to God’s presence after the resurrection to be judged (Jacob 6:9, Alma 42:23, Helaman 14:15-17, Mormon 9:13).

This Easter weekend, I will be grateful that Jesus Christ has overcome death and made the resurrection a reality. In a world of change and decay, I will be grateful for the promise of permanence and durability. I will remember that, because He overcame death, we will all overcome death. I will also remember that He has made it possible for us to qualify for the first resurrection and receive eternal life.

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What Does It Mean to Be Sober?

Throughout the Book of Mormon, people who are responsible, disciplined, and serious are referred to as “sober.”

  • Nephi and Jacob both tell us that they taught the gospel with soberness (1 Nephi 18:10, Jacob 6:5).
  • Jacob explains that God expected him to “magnify [his] office with soberness” (Jacob 2:2).
  • King Benjamin urged his people to teach their children to “walk in the ways of truth and soberness” (Mosiah 4:15).
  • When Alma met with his three sons, he concluded each message with an admonition to be sober (Alma 37:47,  Alma 38:15Alma 42:31).
  • Helaman told Captain Moroni that his 2,000 young warriors were “men of truth and soberness” (Alma 53:21).
  • At the age of ten, Mormon was entrusted with the records of his people because the previous caretaker, Ammaron, saw that he was “a sober child and quick to observe” (Mormon 1:2, 15).

The most common definition of “sober” is “not drunk.” But the term has a broader meaning: “serious, sensible, and solemn” (Oxford Dictionary). To be sober is to be objective and disciplined, to be governed by reason, not by emotion.

Elder James J. Hamula explained the term this way:

Being sober means being earnest and serious in assessing your circumstances and careful and circumspect in weighing the consequences of your actions. Soberness therefore yields good judgment, as well as measured conduct (“Winning the War Against Evil,” General Conference, October 2008).

It’s easy to understand why we would want a person in a position of trust to be sober. We want them to act rationally and responsibly. We need them to be objective and thoughtful as they fulfill their duty.

When I was twelve years old, a teacher at church told me and my friends, “It’s great to have a sense of humor, but no one likes the guy who can’t ever be serious.” That advice has stuck with me. I appreciate that leader’s encouragement to “walk in the ways of truth and soberness.”

Today, I will strive to be sober. I will keep my emotions in check. I will be objective in assessing circumstances and will think about the consequences of my decisions. I will take my responsibilities seriously and fulfill them conscientiously.

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Why Are “Envyings” Associated with “Strife?”

The word “envying” or “envyings” appears ten times in the Book of Mormon. Nine of those times, it is followed immediately by “strife” or “strifes.” These words are also closely associated in the New Testament.

To envy another person is to resent them because of the perception that they have something that you lack. A recognition of the other person’s superiority is the first step. But it does not become envy until it is coupled with a feeling of unfairness. When we believe that the other person doesn’t deserve their good fortune, or when we think we have been unjustly denied the same good fortune, we begin to feel animosity toward them. This animosity is envy, and it leads to contention or strife.

Ezra Taft Benson identified envy as a form of pride: “Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up” (“Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1989).

No wonder the writers of the Book of Mormon associated envy with strife:

And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God (Alma 4:9).

Your hearts are not drawn out unto the Lord, but they do swell with great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities (Helaman 13:22).

Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes (3 Nephi 30:2).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has pointed out that envy causes us unnecessary grief:

Envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! (“The Laborers in the Vineyard,” General Conference, April 2012).

Today, I will celebrate others’ successes and not indulge in envy. I will believe that God loves all of His children, and that He will bless me as He has blessed other people. I will remember that envy leads to strife, and that I must avoid it if I want to maintain positive relationships with other people.

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What Does It Mean to Do Something with “Real Intent?”

After teaching us about the baptism of the Savior, Nephi pleads with us to “follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent” (2 Nephi 31:13).

Moroni tells us that repentance leads to forgiveness when it is done “with real intent” (Moroni 6:8).

Mormon tells us that when we give a gift or say a prayer, we should do it “with real intent,” or else it doesn’t count. If you give a gift grudgingly, it’s the same as not giving the gift. If you pray “and not with real intent of heart,” your prayer is useless (Moroni 7:6-9).

In the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, Moroni urges us to pray to know if the book is true. He promises us that God will answer our prayer if we “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” (Moroni 10:4).

What does it mean to do something with real intent?

The word “intent” comes from the Latin word intentus, which means “stretching out” or “leaning toward” (“intent,” Online Etymology Dictionary). A person who has real intent is willing to exert themselves for the thing they seek. They aren’t half-hearted about it. They act “with full purpose of heart.” They are in the game. They have no ulterior motives. They are sincere.

Brother Randall L. Ridd taught that “real intent” also means being aware of your motives.  He said, “It is important, in today’s world, to be intentional about why you do what you do” (“Living with Purpose: The Importance of ‘Real Intent’,” Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, 11 January 2015).

Today, I will act with real intent. I’ll strive to be aware of my motives and align them with God’s will. I will engage fully in my activities, focusing my mind and my heart on the task at hand. I will be sincere and totally committed to doing my work well.

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What Guidance Does the Book of Mormon Provide About Recognizing the Holy Ghost?

Nephi promised that, if we will receive the Holy Ghost, “it will show unto [us] all things what [we] should do” (2 Nephi 32:5). The Lord told Joseph Smith that the Holy Ghost speaks to our mind and to our heart (D&C 8:2). But it can be hard to distinguish thoughts and feelings which come from the Spirit from our own thoughts and feelings. What does the Book of Mormon teach that can help us learn to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost?

  1. The Holy Ghost can calm negative emotions, such as anger, fear, or discouragement. Nephi said that the Lord softened his heart so that he did not rebel against his father’s words (1 Nephi 2:16). When Ammon and his brothers became depressed during their missionary service, the Lord comforted them (Alma 26:27). And Helaman wrote to Captain Moroni that, before a difficult battle, the Lord “did speak peace to [their] souls” (Alma 58:11).
  2. The voice of the Holy Ghost is quiet but piercing. When Nephi and Lehi were delivered from prison by the power of God, the people who saw the miracle heard a voice. “It was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul” (Helaman 5:30). When a group of people were gathered at the temple in Bountiful following the Savior’s death, they also heard a voice. “It was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn” (3 Nephi 11:3).
  3. Sometimes we may recognize that God is speaking to us without understanding what He is saying. That group of people at the temple heard the voice three times. The first two times, “they understood not the voice which they heard.” But the third time, they did something different: “They did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came. And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard” (3 Nephi 11:5-6). Sometimes, we don’t understand because we aren’t listening intently enough.
  4. On some occasions, the Holy Ghost can fill us with overwhelming power. At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Lehi is “overcome with the Spirit” (1 Nephi 1:7-8). Nephi later tells his brothers, “I am full of the Spirit of God, insomuch that my frame has no strength” (1 Nephi 17:47). He later said that God had filled him with His love, “even unto the consuming of my flesh” (2 Nephi 4:21).

Today, I will strive to recognize the voice of the Holy Ghost. I will remember that the Spirit speaks peace to my soul, that His voice is soft but piercing, and that I must remove distractions and pay attention in order to understand the message. I will also remember and be grateful for the occasions when I have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost with overwhelming and undeniable power.

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How Does God Communicate with Us?

After writing two days ago about the importance of firsthand spiritual knowledge, and after writing yesterday about the role of prophets in helping us to grow closer to God, I was thinking today about the variety of ways that God sends us messages. Here are some examples:

  1. Dreams and visions — The Book of Mormon opens with a vision. In the city of Jerusalem, Lehi “saw and heard much” after offering a sincere prayer on behalf of his people (1 Nephi 1:5-14). Later, as the family traveled in the wilderness, Lehi described to his family a dream “or in other words” a vision which he had seen (1 Nephi 8). These were interactive learning experiences in which Lehi was a full participant, not like watching a movie on a screen. When Lehi’s son Nephi wanted to see the same things his father had seen, he experienced a different kind of vision in which an angel showed him multiple scenes and provided explanations of what Nephi was seeing (1 Nephi 11-14). Many years later, we read about a Lamanite woman named Abish, who was converted to the gospel because “of a remarkable vision of her father” (Alma 19:16). We don’t know anything about this vision except that it resulted in her conversion to the gospel.
  2. Prophets — When the people of King Noah were sinking into greater and greater wickedness, God sent the prophet Abinadi to warn them that they were in danger, and if they didn’t repent they would be destroyed (Mosiah 11:20-29). Instead of taking the message seriously, the people rejected the messenger. Alma the Younger and Samuel the Lamanite both had experiences where their message was rejected but they were told to go back and try again (Alma 8:16, Helaman 13:3). Samuel emphasized to the people how foolish they were to listen only to messages which are easy to hear (Helaman 13:24-29).
  3. Angels – Sometimes God sends earthly messengers—prophets. Other times, He sends heavenly messengers. But people can be so hardened that they fail to respond even to miraculous messages. Nephi reminded his brothers that they had seen an angel of God who had spoken to them, “but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Nephi 17:45). Similarly, in the years leading to the visit of the Savior, the people experienced so many miracles that they “began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven” (3 Nephi 2:1).
  4. Friends and family members — The sons of King Mosiah asked their father for permission to preach the gospel among their enemies, the Lamanites. He prayed and received a promise that God would protect them during their service (Mosiah 28:7). The king of the Lamanites trusted Mosiah’s son Ammon when he told them that the believers should immigrate to the land of Zarahemla (Alma 27:12). Jared asked his brother to pray for guidance on behalf of the family at the tower of Babel (Ether 1:34). Sometimes, we receive messages from God through people we know who are close to Him.
  5. The scriptures — The written words of ancient prophets contain messages that are relevant to us. Nephi enthusiastically shared the words of Isaiah with his brothers, not for their historical significance but for their current applicability: “I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning,” he said (1 Nephi 19:23). Abinadi rebuked the priests of King Noah, who had studied the scriptures but had not “applied [their] hearts to understanding” (Mosiah 12:26-27). Therefore, they had completely missed the messages the Lord was trying to give them.
  6. Our daily experiences — King Benjamin reminded his people that God created us and that He continues to “preserve [us] from day to day, by lending [us] breath, that [we] may live and move and do according to [our] own will” (Mosiah 2:21). Alma told Korihor, “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44). Just because we experience some miracles on a regular basis, and just because we routinely take them for granted, doesn’t make them any less miraculous.

Today, I will be grateful for the many ways God communicates with me. I will remember that my Heavenly Father regularly sends me messages, and that it is my responsibility to recognize them and to be receptive to them. I will remember that His messages may stretch me and require me to change. I will open my heart to accept this guidance, knowing that He loves me perfectly and is helping me become something better than I am today.

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Why Do We Need Prophets?

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of having firsthand spiritual knowledge. If the best way to gain spiritual knowledge is directly from the source, then why do we need intermediaries at all? Why does God send prophets?

The obvious reason is because we’re not there yet. A feature of this life is that we are no longer in the presence of God and we can’t remember the time when we were in His presence. So we need someone to teach us about Him and to help us learn to connect with Him.

Here’s how Alma explained it: By partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve introduced physical and spiritual death into the world. They became mortal and they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. This life became a time for them to prepare to return to God’s presence. But because of their lack of access to Him, they didn’t know what they needed to do to prepare for that event. Recognizing that they needed more information, God sent angels, who taught them about His plan of redemption and gave them instructions to enable them to follow the plan (Alma 12:22-37).

Mormon later explained that God sends different types of messengers: angels and prophets (Moroni 7:22-23).

Actually, the Hebrew word for angel—malak (מֲלְאָךְ)—can refer to either heavenly beings or to mortals who bring messages from God. (See Genesis 19:1, 15.). The last prophet in the Old Testament was named Malachi, which means “my messenger” or “my angel.” So when he quotes God as saying, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1, 3 Nephi 24:1), the original Hebrew word in that passage is his own name: “Behold, I will send Malachi, and he shall prepare the way before me.”

And that’s what prophets do: they prepare the way for us to approach God. They do this by teaching us true principles about God, by encouraging us to take actions which will bring us closer to God, and by providing correction when we are distancing ourselves from Him. They are our guides along the path. They are not a substitute for direct experience with God, but they provide valuable guidance and encouragement as we follow the path back to His presence.

When Jesus Christ visited the American continent, He introduced Himself in the context of the messengers who had prophesied of His coming: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world” (3 Nephi 11:10). These people were able to understand who He was because they had been prepared by the messengers who had preceded Him.

Today, I will be grateful for prophets who help me become closer to God and who prepare me to return to His presence. I will remember that God wants to communicate with me, and that He does so through multiple channels. I will strive to hear and follow the messages I receive through the scriptures, through the words of modern prophets, and through the words of my local church leaders. I will remember that these words can form a scaffolding for me as I learn to hear and follow the direct messages the Lord sends to me through His Spirit.

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