How Can I Have More Experiences with God?

My question today was inspired by a talk given by President Russell M. Nelson in the most recent general conference. He gave the following advice:

Understand that in the absence of experiences with God, one can doubt the existence of God. So, put yourself in a position to begin having experiences with Him. Humble yourself. Pray to have eyes to see God’s hand in your life and in the world around you. Ask Him to tell you if He is really there—if He knows you. Ask Him how He feels about you. And then listen (“Come, Follow Me,” General Conference, April 2019).

I do believe in God, and I have had experiences with Him throughout my life. But after hearing this counsel from President Nelson, I’ve been pondering the following question: “What can I do to have more experiences with God? How can I put myself into a position to have more experiences with Him?”

The question became more urgent as I connected it with Alma’s question to the people of Zarahemla:

If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (Alma 5:26)

A memory of past spiritual experiences is insufficient to support current faith. Consistent experiences with God are necessary to sustain faith over time.

I remembered the prayer of Lamoni’s father, king over all the Lamanites, after the missionary Aaron assured him that there is a God:

O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day (Alma 22:18).

Two things impress me about this prayer:

  1. He spoke to God even when though he was unsure that there was a God. With this action, he exercised faith in the words he had been taught, and he invited God into his heart and mind.
  2. He was willing to commit to take specific actions. This was not idle curiosity. It was serious inquiry.

I remembered the words of King Mosiah:

How knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:13)

To know God, we must serve God. By so doing, we train our thoughts and feelings to be centered on Him.

Then I remembered the words of a prayer offered by the Savior during His visit to the American continent. Speak of the twelve disciples whom He had chosen, He said:

Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one (3 Nephi 19:23).

Today, I will place myself in circumstances where I can have experiences with my Heavenly Father. I will pray, not just to fulfill a duty, but to connect with Him. I will strive to serve Him. I will ask Him questions and listen for answers. I will strive to attune my heart and mind to His voice, believing that He wants to be close to me and will draw near to me as I draw near to Him (Doctrine & Covenants 88:63).

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How Can I Be a Better Father?

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m thinking about what I can do to be a better father. Here are ten principles the Book of Mormon teaches about being an effective father:

1. Give your children assignments, and trust that they can complete them.

Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness (1 Nephi 3:2-4).

I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness (1 Nephi 5:5).

2. Teach your children the things that will help them be successful in life.

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father (1 Nephi 1:1).

Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that hewas a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it (Enos 1:1).

3. Earn your children’s respect by behaving with integrity.

Ye have…lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them (Jacob 2:35).

4. Teach them the gospel, even if they don’t seem to be listening.

Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
And my soul hungered… (Enos 1:3-4).

As I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world (Alma 36:17).

5. Pray for them.

Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith (Mosiah 27:14).

6. Express confidence in them.

My son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God; for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end (Alma 38:2).

My son, I recommend thee unto God, and I trust in Christ that thou wilt be saved;…
And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever (Moroni 9:22, 26).

7. Help them learn to get along with each other.

And ye will not suffer your children that they…fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness.
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another (Mosiah 4:14-15).

8. Share spiritual experiences and testimony with them

Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision (1 Nephi 8:2).

Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there (Alma 36:21-22).

One of the Lamanitish women, whose name was Abish, she having been converted unto the Lord for many years, on account of a remarkable vision of her father… (Alma 19:16).

9. Give them corrective feedback when needed

And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good….
And now the Spirit of the Lord doth say unto me: Command thy children to do good, lest they lead away the hearts of many people to destruction; therefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities (Alma 39:7, 12).

10. Help them find answers to their questions.

I perceive that thy mind is worried concerning the resurrection of the dead (Alma 40:1).

And I perceive that thy mind has been worried also concerning this thing. But behold, I will explain it unto thee (Alma 41:1).

And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner….
Now behold, my son, I will explain this thing unto thee (Alma 42:1-2).

Today, I will follow the guidance and examples of righteous fathers in the Book of Mormon as I work to become a better father. In particular, I will be more diligent in sharing my testimony of the gospel with my children and expressing my confidence in them.

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What Is the Plan of Redemption?

The word “plan” doesn’t appear in the King James Version of the Bible. But it appears 51 times in the Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon prophets, particularly Jacob and Alma, teach clearly that God created a plan for us, and that by following His plan, we can overcome every challenge we face and achieve perfect happiness.

“The Merciful Plan of the Great Creator”

Jacob is the first prophet to use the word “plan” in the Book of Mormon. In a sermon to the people of Nephi, he tells the people that death is part of God’s plan. But God has also prepared a way for us to overcome the effects of death and sin. Our spirits and our bodies will be reunited, and we can overcome our sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We can return to the presence of God and have a fulness of joy forever. Jacob calls this “the merciful plan of the Great Creator” (2 Nephi 9:6), “the plan of our God” (2 Nephi 9:13), and “the great plan of redemption” (Jacob 6:8).

After quoting Jacob’s sermon, his brother Nephi rejoices in the “justice, and power, and mercy” of God as evidenced by His “great and eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Nephi 11:5).

Jacob’s grandson, Jarom, testified that his predecessors, including Jacob and Nephi had revealed “plan of salvation” in their writings (Jarom 1:2).

“The Plan of Redemption”

The prophet Alma and his associates referred frequently to “the plan of redemption.” Alma explained the need for the plan by describing what would have happened without it:

  • “If it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead” (Alma 12:25).
  • “If it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated” (Alma 12:26).
  • “If it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Alma 42:11).

Alma and his missionary companion Amulek emphasized that God’s plan requires something from us. The full benefits of the plan are only available to those who repent:

  • “Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil,… for on such the plan of redemption could have no power” (Alma 12:32).
  • “He that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption” (Alma 34:16).
  • “If ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:31).

In an interview with his son Corianton, Alma used several terms to describe God’s plan. He called it the plan of redemption (Alma 39:18, Alma 42:11, 13), the plan of salvation (Alma 42:5), the plan of mercy (Alma 42:15, 31), and the plan of happiness (Alma 42:8, 16).

Conclusion

Today, I will remember that this life is not arbitrary. The challenges we face were foreseen by God, and He has prepared a plan which will enable each of us to overcome them. I will be grateful for God’s plan of redemption which will enable me to overcome every obstacle and achieve the happiness He wants me to have.

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How Will the Remnant of Jacob Be Like a Lion Among Sheep?

The prophet Micah, who was a contemporary of Isaiah, wrote about a time when the children of Israel would not be oppressed any more. In a future day, he prophesied, God’s people would be far more powerful than their enemies. In contrast with earlier times, when they were scattered and taken captive, they would be able to defend themselves against their enemies and remove all obstacles to their peace and safety:

And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off (Micah 5:8-9).

Micah also compared the Israelites in the last days to a threshing ox. Grain was threshed in that time—the edible part was detached from the chaff—by having large animals walk on it. There is no contest between the animal and the grain. The large animal has complete power over the grain that is being threshed. Micah said that, in the last days, many nations would attack God’s people. But God’s power would be with His people even though they would be dramatically outnumbered. The nations who gathered to attack them would be like wheat waiting to be threshed:

Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion.
But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor.
Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth (Micah 4:11-13).

When Jesus Christ visited the American continent, He quoted both of these passages from Micah, to illustrate that His covenant people would have great power in the last days. After quoting the second passage, He said:

And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles.
And it shall come to pass that I will establish my people, O house of Israel….
And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you (3 Nephi 20:20-22).

And after quoting the first passage, He emphasized that the nations who will be trodden down are the people who refuse to repent. But all those who choose to repent will become part of the house of Israel. They will become part of His church, and they will be protected by His power:

For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel;…
But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance;…
And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst (3 Nephi 21:20, 22, 25).

The prophet Nephi also saw how the power of God would protect His people in the last days. “I beheld the church of the Lamb of God,” he said, “and its numbers were few.” He saw multitudes gathered, in all parts of the world, to attack the church of God. But:

I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory (1 Nephi 14:12-14).

These prophecies will be fulfilled on a global scale. But they can also be fulfilled in our individual lives. There are times when we need to stand up for what we know is right even when it is unpopular and even if we are outnumbered. As President Thomas S. Monson taught:

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?… 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 remember that those who make covenants with God receive power from Him. Like a lion among sheep or like an ox among sheaves of wheat, power and influence is not merely a numbers game. When God is with us, we do not need to be afraid, even when we are outnumbered.

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What Is the Role of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs” in the Book of Mormon?

Four passages in the Book of Isaiah are known as the “servant songs.” They are written in a poetic style, and they collectively describe a servant of God who would save God’s children by suffering for them (“The Servant Songs in Isaiah,” American Bible Society Resources website, “Isaiah’s ‘Other’ Servant Songs,” Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009).

Three of the four servant songs appear in the Book of Mormon. They enhance the testimonies of Nephi, Jacob, and Abinadi that Jesus is the Christ.

The First Song

In the first song, God announces the arrival of His servant. He portrays the servant as a person who will act deliberately, without great fanfare, but who will in the end be successful in righting the wrongs in the world.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.

He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged

till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope (Isaiah 42:1-4, NIV)

Matthew recognized a fulfillment of this prophecy in Jesus’s attempts to keep his ministry low-profile and to stay out of the spotlight (Matthew 12:14-21).

This song does not appear in the Book of Mormon.

The Second Song

The second song is in the voice of the servant himself. He announces that he was chosen by God before he was born. He expresses sorrow that he has not been more successful in bringing Israel to God. But God responds that He is pleased with His servant, and He expands the servant’s mission. The servant will not only be a light to Israel, but to the whole world.

Listen to me, you islands;
hear this, you distant nations:

Before I was born the Lord called me;
from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.

He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.

He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”

But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing at all.

Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,
and my reward is with my God.”

And now the Lord says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant

to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,

for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
and my God has been my strength—

he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:1-6, NIV)

Nephi quoted this song to his brothers after arriving in the promised land (1 Nephi 21:1-6). He must have been able to relate to this description of the Savior, as a person who had fulfilled his duty and earned God’s approval, but whose efforts had not always been well-received by the people around him.

The Third Song

The servant again speaks in the third song, this time emphasizing his meekness and his resoluteness in the face of persecution. He was beaten, spit upon, and mocked, but he faced all of those trials without flinching.

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.

I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;

I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.

Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame (Isaiah 50:4-7, NIV).

Nephi’s brother Jacob quoted this song as a part of a sermon to the people of Nephi (2 Nephi 7:4-7). Jacob must have identified with this depiction of the Savior, since he himself had been persecuted by his older brothers from a young age (2 Nephi 2:1, Jacob 7:26).

The Fourth Song

The final song connects the suffering of this servant with our salvation. God again introduces the servant, saying that he will be terribly disfigured as he “sprinkles” the nations, a reference to the blood which the high priest sprinkled on the mercy seat in the tabernacle to atone for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:15-16). At the end of the song, God promises to bless this servant because “he bore the sin of many.”

In the middle of the song, the recipients of this gift express sorrow that they failed to recognize what was happening. He didn’t seem spectacular. There was nothing special about his appearance. And he was ridiculed. How could we have known that all of this suffering was for us? God wasn’t punishing him by making him suffer. He was actually fulfilling God’s purposes by choosing to suffer!

See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.

Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—

so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.

For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,

yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?

For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,

though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,

he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;

by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,

because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 52:13-15, Isaiah 53:1-12, NIV)

The prophet Abinadi quoted part of this song to King Noah and his priests (Mosiah 14). The song was appropriate to the setting: a humble man was preaching to the elite of the city, who thought of him as insignificant and powerless. They called him crazy. They refused to take his message seriously. They would soon put him to death. Abinadi was willing to endure all of that to fulfill the mission God had given him. “I finish my message,” he said, “and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved” (Mosiah 13:9).

When Jesus visited the American continent, He quoted the first part of the song, emphasizing the connection between His suffering and the gathering of Israel (3 Nephi 20:43-45). He had lived in a small geographical area near Jerusalem, but His mission would benefit all the nations of the world.

Conclusion

The servant songs of Isaiah make the mission of Jesus Christ personal. Unlike other passages of scripture which describe His Atonement factually, these songs explore what it must have felt like to fulfill His mission. As Nephi, Jacob, and Abinadi quoted from these songs, their own experiences in obeying the voice of God helped them to better understand the Savior and to more fully appreciate the magnitude of His sacrifice on our behalf.

Today, I will remember and be grateful for the Savior’s willingness to atone for the sins of the world. I will remember that He willingly submitted to unfathomable suffering for us. I will also remember that He followed His Father’s will consistently, courageously, and resolutely.

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What Is the Liahona?

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When God commanded Lehi to leave the city of Jerusalem, he obeyed immediately. He took his family three days’ journey into the wilderness and set up camp by a river in a valley.

The family camped in that valley for a long time: long enough for Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem twice—once for the brass plates and once to invite the family of Ishmael to join them. During their time in the valley, Lehi studied the scriptures and taught his sons the gospel. He shared with his family a dream he had experienced, and his son Nephi saw a vision. His sons were married to the daughters of Ishmael.

After all of these events, it was finally time to take up camp and journey to the promised land. The Lord instructed Lehi that, “on the morrow, he should take his journey into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:9). As he arose the next morning, ready to begin traveling even though he didn’t know where, he received help in the form of a small object. In the words of his son Nephi:

And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness (1 Nephi 16:10).

Nephi doesn’t tell us what the other spindle did. But he does describe another feature of this remarkable instrument. Later in the chapter, God commands Lehi to look at the ball:

…and behold the things which are written.
And it came to pass that when my father beheld the things which were written upon the ball, he did fear and tremble exceedingly, and also my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and our wives (1 Nephi 16:26-27).

Nephi tells us that the pointers on the ball and the writing on the ball only worked “according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them” (1 Nephi 16:28-29).

Later, when some of Nephi’s brothers rebelled against him and tied him up, “the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work” (1 Nephi 18:12). After they repented and set him free, it began to work again (1 Nephi 18:21).

Nephi never tells us the name of this instrument. He always calls it either a “ball” or a “compass.” But more than 500 years later, the prophet Alma shared its name with his son Helaman:

And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness (Alma 37:38-39).

Alma reiterated to Helaman that the Liahona only worked “according to their faith in God.” When they became slothful and “forgot to exercise their faith and diligence,” then “those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey” (Alma 37:40-41).

Then, Alma explained how the story of the Liahona applies to our lives:

It is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.
And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever (Alma 37:44-46).

Elder David A. Bednar has taught that the gift of the Holy Ghost fulfills the same purpose in our lives that the Liahona fulfilled for Lehi:

Just as Lehi was blessed in ancient times, each of us in this day has been given a spiritual compass that can direct and instruct us during our mortal journey. The Holy Ghost was conferred upon you and me as we came out of the world and into the Savior’s Church through baptism and confirmation….
The Holy Ghost operates in our lives precisely as the Liahona did for Lehi and his family, according to our faith and diligence and heed….
The Spirit of the Lord can be our guide and will bless us with direction, instruction, and spiritual protection during our mortal journey. We invite the Holy Ghost into our lives through meaningful personal and family prayer, feasting upon the words of Christ, diligent and exacting obedience, faithfulness and honoring of covenants, and through virtue, humility, and service. And we steadfastly should avoid things that are immodest, coarse, crude, sinful, or evil that cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost (“That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” General Conference, April 2006).

Today, I will seek for the guidance of the Holy Ghost in my life. I will strive to live in a way that will make me worthy of this gift. I will remember that, just as the Liahona only worked when Lehi’s family demonstrated faith and diligence, I must also qualify for the companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost in my life.

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What Can We Learn from the Brass Serpent?

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As Moses led the Israelites to the promised land, they came to a place where there were “fiery serpents.” Many people were bitten by the snakes and died. God told Moses to make a snake out of brass and place it on top of a pole. Whenever any of the people was bitten by one of these snakes, all they had to do was look at the brass serpent, and they would live (Numbers 21:6-9).

Incidentally, the term “fiery serpents” is sometimes translated as “venomous snakes” or “poisonous snakes” (Numbers 21:6 on biblehub.com). The phrase “fiery flying serpent” (which appears twice in the Book of Isaiah) is rendered in some translations as “a darting, venomous serpent” (Isaiah 14:29, Isaiah 30:6 on biblehub.com). “Fiery” probably refers to the burning sensation caused by the venom, and “flying” likely refers to the snake’s speed and agility.

When Nephi’s brothers refused to help him build a ship, he used this story to motivate them to action:

[The Lord] sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished (1 Nephi 17:41).

Nephi later referenced this story as evidence that Moses had been given great power by God:

And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved (2 Nephi 25:20).

The prophet Alma elaborated on why some of the people refused to look at the brass serpent:

A type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them (Alma 33:19-20, italics added).

And a later prophet named Nephi testified to the people of Zarahemla that this story is symbolic of what we must do. Just as the ancient Israelites had to look at the serpent to be physically healed, we must look toward Jesus Christ in order to be spiritually healed:

Yea, did he not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come.
And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal (Helaman 8:14-15).

I see a number of principles in this story:

  1. We should obey God’s commandments even if they seem simplistic to us.
  2. It is important to recognize who has the power to save us.
  3. We demonstrate our belief through our actions.
  4. We can be healed by looking to the Savior: turning our minds and our hearts toward Him.

Note that, even though the action they had to take was miniscule compared to the blessing they sought, they nevertheless had to do something in order to receive the blessing. It didn’t just happen. As Elder Dale G. Renlund observed:

How much energy does it take to look at something? All who looked accessed the powers of heaven and were healed. Other Israelites who were bitten failed to look at the brazen serpent and died. Perhaps they lacked the faith to look. Perhaps they did not believe that such a simple action could trigger the promised healing. Or perhaps they willfully hardened their hearts and rejected the counsel of God’s prophet….
Like those ancient Israelites, we too must act on our faith in Jesus Christ to be blessed…. That being said, you do not earn a blessing—that notion is false—but you do have to qualify for it. Our salvation comes only through the merits and grace of Jesus Christ. The immensity of His atoning sacrifice means that [His blessings are] infinite; our puny actions approach zero in comparison. But they are not zero, and they are not insignificant; in the dark, a match that is lit can be seen for miles. In fact, it can be seen in heaven because small acts of faith are required to ignite God’s promises (“Abound with Blessings,” General Conference, April 2019).

Today, I will choose to take actions that demonstrate my faith in God. I will choose to “look upon the Son of God with faith.” I will remember that small acts of faith can unlock His immense healing power and “ignite [His] promises” in my life.

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