What Can We Learn from the Crossing of the Red Sea?

The imagery of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea must have been particularly vivid for Nephi and his brothers as they traveled to their promised land. Shortly after leaving Jerusalem, their family set up camp “by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea.” Thereafter, they traveled “in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5). They must have been easily able to visualize an enormous crowd of men, women, and children passing through the sea on dry ground with a wall of water on either side, while the formidable Egyptian army was kept at bay, and was eventually buried in the water (Exodus 14).

The imagery must have still been vivid when Nephi and his brothers returned to Jerusalem on a mission to retrieve a sacred record. When the keeper of the record, Laban, tried to kill them, two of the brothers wanted to give up and go back to camp. Nephi persuaded them to stay by reminding them of the ancient Israelites:

Let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea….
Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians (1 Nephi 4:2-3).

Later, as they camped on another seashore, Nephi’s brothers refused to help him build a ship. They called him a fool for thinking “that he can cross these great waters” (1 Nephi 17:17). Nephi appealed again to the same historical event:

Ye know that Moses was commanded of the Lord to do that great work; and ye know that by his word the waters of the Red Sea were divided hither and thither, and they passed through on dry ground.
But ye know that the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, who were the armies of Pharaoh (1 Nephi 17:26-27).

For Nephi, the lesson is simple: Don’t be afraid to do what God commands, even if it seems impossible. He has proven that He can help His children overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Move forward with faith. Don’t retreat.

Three subsequent Book of Mormon prophets reminded their listeners of the crossing of the Red Sea:

  • King Limhi used the story to build the confidence of his people that the Lord would help them escape from captivity (Mosiah 7:19).
  • Alma referenced the event as evidence that God can deliver us from every obstacle, including death (Alma 36:27-29).
  • Another prophet named Nephi used the story as evidence that God can give one person great power (Helaman 8:11).

When the children of Israel saw the Egyptian armies pursuing them and recognized that they were trapped between the armies and the sea, their immediate reaction was despair: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” they asked Moses (Exodus 14:11). But the Lord said to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exodus 14:15).

Today, I will go forward. Like the children of Israel walking into the Red Sea and away from slavery, like Nephi finishing his mission to obtain the brass plates and later building a ship, and like Limhi, Alma, and the other Nephi, I will remember that God can help me do seemingly impossible things, that He can help me overcome apparently insurmountable barriers, that He can deliver me from all forms of captivity. I will move forward in faith, knowing that He will help me succeed.

Posted in Faith, God - Omnipotence | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Are the Lost Tribes of Israel?

Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) had twelve sons:

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Levi
  4. Judah
  5. Issachar
  6. Zebulun
  7. Dan
  8. Naphtali
  9. Gad
  10. Asher
  11. Joseph
  12. Benjamin

(Gen. 29:32–30:24; 35:16–18, Guide to the Scriptures, “Israel“)

Their descendants were known as the twelve tribes of Israel, with each tribe named after one of these sons of Jacob.

After Israel’s descendants were delivered from captivity in Egypt, the Lord led them back to the land of their ancestors and divided that land into twelve parts: one for each tribe. Because the tribe of Levi had been chosen to serve as priests, they didn’t inherit land. So the tribe of Joseph received portions of the land for each of his two sons: Ephraim and Manasseh.

After the death of King Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel was divided. The northern ten tribes formed the kingdom of Israel (also known as Joseph, or Ephraim), and the southern two tribes formed the kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 11:31, 35).

Years later (about 740 B.C.E.), the Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and forcibly relocated its inhabitants to other parts of its empire ( The kingdom of Judah was miraculously spared the same fate, but about 150 years later (~600 B.C.E.), it was similarly conquered by the Babylonian empire (“Captivities of the Israelites,” Bible Dictionary).

Lehi and his family left Jerusalem just before it was destroyed. The tribes in the north had long since been scattered by the Assyrians (although some members of those tribes remained in the south. Lehi, for example, was a descendant of Joseph.) But Nephi tells us that those tribes, although scattered, continued to produce sacred records. He promised that those records will one day come to light:

And it shall come to pass that the Jews [the two southern tribes] shall have the words of the Nephites [part of the tribe of Joseph] and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews (2 Nephi 29:13).

During the Savior’s mortal ministry, He told His Jewish listeners that He had “other sheep…, which are not of this fold.” He assured them that those other “sheep” would hear His voice, “and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

After His death and resurrection, the Savior visited the American continent. He told the people there that they were some of the “other sheep” He had spoken of in Jerusalem (3 Nephi 15:21). Then, He went on to say:

I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.
For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them.
But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them (3 Nephi 16:1-3).

Shortly after, He explained who these “other sheep” were:

Now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them (3 Nephi 17:4).

We don’t have a record of that visit. We don’t know where He went or whom he visited. The northern tribes had been scattered centuries earlier, had intermarried with other people, and had lost their tribal identity. Still, from the Savior’s words, it seems clear that some members of those tribes were prepared to receive Him, and that His visit to the American continent is not the only visit He made after His resurrection.

When speaking about the scattering of Israel, President Russell M. Nelson emphasized the same point made by the Savior—the word “lost” depends on your point of view:

Ten tribes were carried captive into Assyria. From there they became lost to the records of mankind. (Obviously, the ten tribes are not lost to the Lord.) (“The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” General Conference, October 2006).

So, even though we know very little about the lost tribes of Israel, we know at least three important things:

  1. We will one day have their words.
  2. The Savior visited some of them after His resurrection.
  3. They are not lost to God.

Today, I will be grateful for the reminder that God loves all of His children. No matter how “lost” we may become from the perspective of other people and even ourselves, we are never lost to God.

Posted in Israel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Who Is the House of Israel?

The word Israel appears 213 times in the Book of Mormon, almost always preceded by the word “of.” Here are the phrases in which it most commonly appears:

Phrase # Appearances
house of Israel 122
Holy One of Israel 40
God of Israel 11
children of Israel 8
tribes of Israel 6

What is the house of Israel?

Book of Mormon prophets use the term to mean two different things: (1) literal descendants of Israel (Jacob), and (2) recipients of the covenant God made with Israel.

Literal Descendants

On the title page of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni identifies three target audiences for the book:

  1. “the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel”
  2. the Jews
  3. the Gentiles (everyone else)

Early in the book, Nephi tells his brothers that their descendants will one day understand “that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord” (1 Nephi 15:14).

Nephi’s brother Jacob later assures his people that the words of Isaiah apply to them, “for ye are of the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 6:5).

600 years later, after the destruction which coincided with the death of the Savior, the grieving survivors hear the voice of the Savior. He addresses them repeatedly as “the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 10:4-7). He also reassures them that, because of their lineage, they are heirs to the covenant God made with their ancestors:

Ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers (3 Nephi 20:25).

And Mormon’s final words are addressed to the descendants of the Lamanites, who have vanquished his people. “Know ye that ye are of the house of Israel,” he says. If you believe these words, “ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant” (Mormon 7:2, 10).

The Lord repeatedly reassured the descendants of Lehi that they were part of the posterity of Israel, and that they were therefore rightful heirs of the covenant God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel).

Recipients of the covenant

But the Book of Mormon is also written to the Gentiles, and it has an important message for them as well: If they choose to repent and accept the gospel, they will receive the same blessings promised to the literal descendants of Israel. Early in the book, an angel assures Nephi that, if the Gentiles will follow the Savior,

they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel (1 Nephi 14:2).

Nephi later reiterates this promise:

As many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel (2 Nephi 30:2).

So receptiveness, not lineage, is the ultimate determinant of inclusion in the house of Israel.

The Savior underscored this point during His visit to the American continent. Why will the Gentiles bring the gospel to the house of Israel in the last days? So that they can repent, come unto Christ, and “be numbered among my people, O house of Israel” (3 Nephi 21:6).

And at the end of the account of the Savior’s visit, Mormon concludes with an appeal to the Gentiles:

Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent…that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel (3 Nephi 30:2).

Two invitations

Why would God emphasize the direct lineage of the Nephites and the Lamanites, while also assuring the Gentiles that they can be heirs to the same blessings? I think the answer is simple: God loves all of His children, and He will do what He can to convince them to receive His blessings. If a reminder of their ancestry inspires them to live up to their heritage, He will remind them. If a message of inclusion prompts them to accept His invitation, then He will assure them that lineage is no obstacle. Either way, His message is the same: Come to me and receive the gifts that only I can give.

Today, I will be grateful for God’s loving invitations. I will be grateful for parents and ancestors who made covenants with God and laid the groundwork for me to also develop a deeper relationship with God. I will also be grateful that my relationship with Him is dependent only on my willingness to receive His gifts.

Posted in Israel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Is the Gathering of Israel?

When Lehi taught his family about the scattering of Israel, he reassured them that the Lord would gather them again:

And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer (1 Nephi 10:14).

What does it mean for the descendants of Israel to be gathered again?

The word “gather” comes from the Old English word gadrian, which means to unite, to agree, or to assemble (Online Etymology Dictionary). You can gather with other people by moving physically closer to them, or as Lehi teaches above, you can gather by becoming unified in thought and in purpose.

“To the lands of their inheritance”

Lehi’s son Nephi saw in a vision the members of the church in our day. He said they were “scattered upon all the face of the earth,” but the power of God descended upon them, and “they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (1 Nephi 14:14).

Nephi taught that the house of Israel would be “gathered together to the lands of their inheritance” (1 Nephi 22:12). This sounds like a prophecy that the descendants of Israel will physically relocate to the land of Israel. But the passage says “lands,” not “land.”

Nephi’s brother Jacob taught that the descendants of Israel will “be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise” (2 Nephi 9:2). In reference to this verse, President Russell M. Nelson explained:

The place of gathering for Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; the place of gathering for Nigerian Saints is in Nigeria; the place of gathering for Korean Saints is in Korea; and so forth. Zion is “the pure in heart.” Zion is wherever righteous Saints are. Publications, communications, and congregations are now such that nearly all members have access to the doctrines, keys, ordinances, and blessings of the gospel, regardless of their location (“The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” General Conference, October 2006).

“To the knowledge of the Lord their God”

Lehi indicated in the first passage above that the gathering would consist of the descendants of Israel coming to a true knowledge of God. When the resurrected Savior visited the descendants of Lehi about 600 years later, He also taught them about the gathering of Israel in similar terms:

And then shall the remnants, which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them….
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 20:13, 22).

The Book of Mormon plays a vital role in this gathering process. During His visit to the American continent, the Savior said:

I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place—that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion;
And behold, this is the thing which I will give unto you for a sign—for verily I say unto you that when these things which I declare unto you…shall be made known unto the Gentiles,… it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel (3 Nephi 21:1-3, 7).

In other words, when the words which the Savior spoke to those people are published (in the Book of Mormon), that is a sign that the work of gathering has begun.

President Nelson has taught:

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign to the entire world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill covenants He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob….
The Book of Mormon is central to this work. It declares the doctrine of the gathering. It causes people to learn about Jesus Christ, to believe His gospel, and to join His Church. In fact, if there were no Book of Mormon, the promised gathering of Israel would not occur (“The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” General Conference, October 2006).

“On both sides of the veil”

The work of gathering is the work of salvation. Ultimately, our goal is to bring people closer to each other and closer to God, which is what God wants for His children.

President Nelson explained to 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).

Therefore, the gathering of Israel includes:

  1. Sharing the gospel to people who aren’t familiar with it
  2. Strengthening and supporting people when they accept the gospel
  3. Helping people who are struggling with their faith
  4. Performing ordinances in the temple on behalf of our deceased ancestors
  5. Teaching one another

Today, I will be grateful for the opportunities I have to participate in the gathering of Israel. I will remember that the gathering is more about unity and spiritual closeness than it is about physical location. I will find ways to strengthen and uplift the people around me, in order to help them grow closer to God and to each other.

Posted in Gathering of Israel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Were the Children of Israel Scattered?

When the children of Israel arrived in the promised land, Moses told them that they would one day be scattered because of persistent disobedience. But he also told them that, when they humbled themselves and repented, God would remember His covenant with their ancestors (Leviticus 26).

By the time Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, much of the scattering of Israel had already taken place. The northern kingdom of Israel, which contained ten of the tribes, had been conquered by the Assyrians, and its inhabitants had been forcibly relocated to other parts of the empire. Now, the city of Jerusalem was soon to be destroyed, and its inhabitants would be taken captive to Babylon. The Lord had warned Lehi to leave the city to avoid that fate.

Lehi compared Israel to an olive tree whose branches are removed and “scattered upon all the face of the earth.” He told his family that their departure from Jerusalem was part of that scattering (1 Nephi 10:2-14).

Later, Nephi, one of Lehi’s sons, found his brothers arguing over the meaning of their father’s words. Nephi explained to them that the descendants of Israel must be scattered among the Gentiles (non-Israelites), so that ” the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 15:17). He connected the scattering of Israel to a covenant God had made with Abraham: that through his descendants all of the people in the world would be blessed (1 Nephi 15:18).

Nephi later quoted a chapter from Isaiah which is directed to scattered Israel (1 Nephi 21:1). His brothers were confused by the chapter and asked him to explain it. He told them that “the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations” (1 Nephi 22:3). Why? Because they have hardened their hearts against God. This sounds straightforward: they are being punished for turning away from God.

But the long-term effect of the scattering is actually positive: it accomplishes God’s purposes in blessing all of His children. Turning to the Abrahamic covenant again, Nephi said:

After our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed….
And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.
Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel (1 Nephi 22:10-11).

When Jesus Christ visited the American continent, He explained that because the children of Israel had been scattered throughout the earth, the entire world would be blessed when He began to gather them again:

Then shall the remnants, which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them….
And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed (3 Nephi 20:13, 25).

Even though the children of Israel were scattered because they turned away from God, this scattering enables Him to fulfill His broader purposes. Because they have been scattered to every nation, when He begins to gather them again, that outreach will bless every nation. That’s because God will use the Gentiles to bless the house of Israel. People of all nations will participate in the gathering. They’ll have to, because the house of Israel is everywhere. Thus, God’s covenant with Abraham will be fulfilled: that through his offspring, all the people of the earth will be blessed.

So was the scattering of Israel God’s will?

  • On one level, no. It was a direct result of disobedience. The children of Israel were carried into captivity and scattered among all nations because of their rebellion against God.
  • But on another level, it was part of His plan. He knew what they would do, and He was able to factor their rebellion, their scattering, and their eventual repentance and gathering into His plan to bless all of His children.

God really does have a master plan, for each of us and for the world. Our sins have consequences for ourselves and for others, but they do not thwart His plan. It is stronger and more resilient than that.

Today, I will be grateful that God is in charge, that He has all power and knowledge, and that His perspective is so much larger than my own. I will strive to live wisely and to contribute to His work, and I will recognize that He is able to accomplish His purposes in spite of my shortcomings.

Posted in Abraham, Gathering of Israel, God - Foreknowledge, God - Omnipotence, God - Omniscience | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Did the Nephites Keep the Law of Moses?

The apostle Paul told the saints in Galatia that the law of Moses had served as a “schoolmaster” to help them develop faith in Jesus Christ. After they developed faith, they didn’t need the schoolmaster any more (Galatians 3:24-25).

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob also recognized that the law of Moses was intended to help him and his people develop faith. However, he encouraged his people to continue to observe the law:

For this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for righteousness (Jacob 4:5).

Paul’s ministry was after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his purpose was to explain why the law of Moses had been superseded by the gospel taught by Jesus. Jacob lived hundreds of years earlier. He and other Book of Mormon prophets understood that they were still bound by the law of Moses until the coming of the Savior.

Jacob’s brother Nephi said, “Notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled” (2 Nephi 25:24). He said that the law had become dead to them because they were alive in Christ. But he told his people, “ye must keep the performances and ordinances of God until the law shall be fulfilled which was given unto Moses” (2 Nephi 25:30).

Nephi was encouraging his people to practice an enlightened obedience. Even though they recognized the limitations of the law, and even though they were aware of the core principles which the law represented, they continued to keep the law, patiently looking forward to the time when the Lord would give them something higher and holier.

An angel explained to King Benjamin that God had given the children of Israel the law of Moses because they were “a stiffnecked people.” The law was intended to teach them about the Savior, “yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not that the law of Moses availeth nothing except it were through the atonement of his blood” (Mosiah 3:14-15).

The prophet Abinadi taught the wicked priests of King Noah four important principles regarding the law of Moses:

  1. If you teach the law of Moses, you ought to keep it (Mosiah 12:28-29).
  2. The law of Moses is temporary. We keep it now, but there will come a time when we will not be required to follow it (Mosiah 13:27).
  3. The law alone will not save you. Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you cannot be saved (Mosiah 13:28).
  4. The law of Moses is “a shadow of those things which are to come.” Its whole purpose is to lead you to Jesus Christ (Mosiah 16:14-15).

The Lamanites who were converted to the gospel by the sons of Mosiah understood these principles and obeyed the law of Moses with maturity and awareness:

They did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them.
Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come (Alma 25:15-16).

When Samuel the Lamanite called the Nephites to repentance, he pointed out to them that the Lamanites were “[walking] circumspectly before God,” following the law of Moses strictly. He encouraged the Nephites to repent and do the same (Helaman 15:5). (See also Helaman 13:1.)

After the people saw the sign of the Savior’s birth, some people got a little ahead of themselves:

[They] began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures that it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses. Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures.
But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit; yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled (3 Nephi 1:24-25).

After the destruction which coincided with the Savior’s death, the people heard His voice. He announced to them that the promised day had now come, that the law of Moses had now been fulfilled:

By me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled….
And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost….
Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin (3 Nephi 9:17-21).

Shortly after, He visited a group of people who were gathered at the temple in Bountiful. He delivered the Sermon on the Mount, teaching them a higher law which superseded the law they had previously been taught. During that sermon, He said, “Old things are done away, and all things have become new” (3 Nephi 12:47).

It can be hard to adapt to change, and after delivering that sermon, He recognized that some people were confused. They had been taught their entire lives to keep the law of Moses. They may have had spiritual experiences as they demonstrated their love of God by following that law. What did Jesus mean? Which portions of the law were no longer relevant, and which still applied? Jesus explained to them the scope of the change:

  • The law was fulfilled. In other words, the ordinances of the law which had served to point their minds forward to His sacrifice were no longer relevant. They were forward-looking practices, and He had now fulfilled the action which those practices had anticipated.
  • The words of the prophets were still relevant. Any prophecies which had not yet been fulfilled were still relevant.
  • His covenant with His people was still in force. He had promised that the children of Israel who had been scattered throughout the earth would one day be gathered to His gospel. That promise had not been fulfilled yet, and He would continue to honor it (3 Nephi 15:3-8).

If they were nervous about losing a law which had served as the framework of their religious life, He encouraged them to look to Him: “I am the law, and the light,” He said. “Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live” (3 Nephi 15:9).

Practices change, but principles do not. None of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel were affected by this change in religious observance. In fact, this change represented an opportunity for followers of Christ to distinguish between the practices (which were temporary) and the underlying principles (which were permanent).

Elder David A. Bednar has pointed out that, when church practices change, we can use those changes as an opportunity to deepen our understanding and elevate our worship. Referencing two recent changes made in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said:

The Sunday meeting schedule was not simply shortened. Rather, we now have increased opportunities and responsibilities as individuals and families to use our time for enhancing the Sabbath as a delight at home and at church.
Last April, the organizational structure of priesthood quorums was not merely changed. Rather, emphasis and strength were given to a higher and holier way of ministering to our brothers and sisters (“Gather Together in One All Things in Christ,” General Conference, October 2018).

Today, I will be grateful for the example of the Nephites. As I participate in church meetings and activities, I will remember that these practices can serve as a “schoolmaster” to point me toward Jesus Christ, just as the law of Moses did for the Nephites and the Lamanites. Like the Lamanites, I will strive to see past the practices to the underlying realities, so that my participation in worship at church and at home can serve to increase my faith in Jesus Christ and bring me closer to Him.

Posted in Law of Moses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Is It Important for Us to Gather with Other Believers?

Some of the most transcendent events that are recorded in the Book of Mormon happened when a group of people gathered.

  • King Benjamin called his people together not only to hear him speak, but also to invite them to enter a covenant relationship with God and take upon themselves the name of Christ (Mosiah 1:10-12).
  • Alma organized a church after baptizing a group of people who had gathered at the waters of Mormon (Mosiah 18:7-17).
  • The Savior visited a group of people who had gathered at the temple in Bountiful (3 Nephi 11:1-11).

When Alma organized the church, he encouraged the members to meet regularly:

And there was one day in every week that was set apart that they should gather themselves together to teach the people, and to worship the Lord their God, and also, as often as it was in their power, to assemble themselves together (Mosiah 18:25).

Moroni tells us that, after the Savior organized His church, the members

did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.
And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus (Moroni 6:5-6).

This was consistent with the promise the Savior had given to His apostles during His mortal ministry:

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).

Why is it important to gather with other believers? Elder D.Todd Christofferson gave several answers in his talk “Why the Church?” (General Conference, October 2015):

  1. An important part of the gospel is loving and serving others. Gathering gives us opportunities to learn to see each other and to treat each other as God would.
  2. We can provide and receive corrective guidance.
  3. As a group, we can accomplish things that we would not have been able to accomplish through our individual efforts.

Even something that seems as personal as partaking of the sacrament is normally a collective experience, not an individual one. I liked Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s insight that this experience can be an opportunity for us to get outside of ourselves and think about the people around us:

When the sacred hour comes to present our sacrificial gift to the Lord, we do have our own sins and shortcomings to resolve; that’s why we’re there. But we might be more successful in such contrition if we are mindful of the other broken hearts and sorrowing spirits that surround us. Seated not far away are some who may have wept—outwardly or inwardly—through the entire sacramental hymn and the prayers of those priests. Might we silently take note of that and offer our little crust of comfort and our tiny cup of compassion—might we dedicate it to them? (“Behold the Lamb of God,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will be grateful for the opportunities I have as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to gather regularly with other believers and grow closer to God. I will remember that gathering gives me an opportunity to become more like my Heavenly Father, as I learn to see other people the way He sees them.

Posted in Church | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment