Their Language Had Become Corrupted – Omni 1:17-18

17 And at the time that Mosiah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time; and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.
18 But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Mosiah, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory; and they are written, but not in these plates.
(Omni 1:17)

Nephi was grateful that he had been taught “somewhat in all the learning of [his] father” (1 Nephi 1:1). This learning included an understanding of his father’s language. Enos was grateful that his father “taught [him] in his language” (Enos 1:1). When Nephi and his brothers traveled back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, one of the reasons was to “preserve unto our children the language of our fathers” (1 Nephi 3:19).

In the verses above, Amaleki shows us the alternative ending to this story. The people of Zarahemla left Jerusalem a little after Lehi and his family and were also led by the Lord to the American continent. However, “they had brought no records with them.” The consequences were severe:

  • Their language had become corrupted.”
  • “They had had many wars and serious contentions.”
  • “They denied the being of their Creator.”

King Mosiah began by instructing them in his people’s language, after which the other problems were resolved. Interestingly, Mosiah then translates an ancient record into their language so that the people can benefit from additional written words (v. 20-21). Those writings contained (among other things) the account of the people at the time of the Tower of Babel, who were cursed for disobedience by having their language confounded (v. 22. See also Genesis 11:1-9.)

Communication is important. The ability to communicate effectively can reduce the probability of conflict, allow people to work together more effectively, and build faith. The written word is particularly important, partly because of our limited ability to remember. King Benjamin told his sons that there is no way Lehi could have remembered all of the gospel principles he needed to teach his children without the help of the brass plates (Mosiah 1:4). As the passage above illustrates, we not only preserve knowledge, but also language—the ability to communicate effectively—by reading and writing.

Today, I will remember the importance of effective communication. I will make an effort to communicate more effectively, in order to avoid misunderstandings and to inspire and assist the people around me. I will also remember the importance of the written word in preserving knowledge and in preserving our ability to communicate.

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Counsel Me Not – Jacob 5:21-22

21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.
22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.
(Jacob 5:21-22)

In the allegory of the wild and tame olive trees, written by the ancient prophet Zenos and quoted in its entirety in Jacob chapter 5, the Lord of the Vineyard represents God, and the branches represent people.

At the beginning of the allegory, the Lord recognizes that his prize tree is beginning to die. He pulls the branches off of the tree and grafts in branches from other trees. Many of the branches from the first tree are then grafted in to other trees in different parts of the vineyard.

In the passage above, the Lord and his servant inspect the vineyard some time later. They are pleased to see that almost all of the branches are doing very well at this point. As the servant notes, even the branches which were grafted into a tree in the worst part of the vineyard have produced good fruit. The servant expresses surprise at this outcome and wonders aloud why the Lord of the vineyard ever thought it was a good idea to move these good branches to this terrible location. “Counsel me not,” answers the Lord. “I knew that it was a poor spot of ground.”

We often find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control. Even simple decisions like where we live, where we work, and how we spend our time are dramatically constrained by events and influences we could not have foreseen, and very often things do not go according to our plans.

When our circumstances are suboptimal, we might be wise to remember the branches described in the passage above. When we are figuratively planted in a poor spot, we can remember that our Heavenly Father is aware of those circumstances, and that He will nourish us even in the worst of circumstances if we will seek His help. It is possible for us to thrive and to bring forth fruit even in unfavorable conditions.

Today, I will trust the guiding influence of my Heavenly Father in my life. I will remember that I can be successful even under suboptimal circumstances, and I will trust God to help me do so.

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According to the Commandment of My Father – Jarom 1:1, 15

1 Now behold, I, Jarom, write a few words according to the commandment of my father, Enos, that our genealogy may be kept….
15 And I deliver these plates into the hands of my son Omni, that they may be kept according to the commandments of my fathers.
(Jarom 1:1, 15)

I’ll admit that I’ve never been very impressed by Jarom. Maybe it’s the fact that he has to follow three impressive authors: Nephi, Jacob, and Enos. He even seems self-conscious about that fact: “What could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me” (Jarom 1:2). Or maybe it’s the fact that he seems to gloss over really important things: “And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked” (Jarom 1:4), but no mention of what those revelations are. Of course, Jarom gives us an explanation–there were a finite number of plates in this collection, and they were running out of space (Jarom 1:14).

However, this time through, I’ve been impressed by two things. First, his book is carefully structured. Second, he was clearly committed to obey the commandments of his father.

Jarom’s one-chapter book follows a chiastic structure, in which the main contents are introduced, and then repeated (with some variation) in reverse:

A. “I, Jarom, write a few words according to the commandment of my father, Enos” (Jarom 1:1).
B. “As these plates are small…it must needs be that I write a little” (Jarom 1:2).
C. “It is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts” (Jarom 1:3).
D. “They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord…. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict.” (Jarom 1:5).
E. “Our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore, we withstood the Lamanites” (Jarom 1:7).
F. “We multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich” (Jarom 1:8)
F’. “The word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (Jarom 1:9)
E’. “The prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi…that if they did not keep the commandments…they should be destroyed from off the face of the land” (Jarom 1:10).
D’. “The prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given” (Jarom 1:11).
C’. “For they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance.” (Jarom 1:12).
B’. “I, Jarom, do not write more, for the plates are small” (Jarom 1:14).
A’. “I deliver these plates into the hands of my son Omni, that they may be kept according to the commandments of my fathers” (Jarom 1:15).

Jarom’s emphasis on obedience to commandments is clear throughout the chapter. He is writing specifically because his father commanded him to do so. The people are slow to obey, but they have strong leaders who “prick their hearts” and convince them to obey the law of Moses. As they do so, the Lord keeps His promise and they prosper in the land. As I think about Jarom today, I see a reliable and a worthy disciple, determined to do his duty and committed to carry on the work begun by his ancestors.

Today, when I am tempted to discount the contributions of others, particularly when they may be uncertain about their own contributions, I will remember my experience with Jarom. I will remember the value of a reliable contributor with a strong sense of duty. I will remember the importance of simply doing our duty and the blessings that come from simply obeying the commandments of the Lord.

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The Nurture and Admonition of the Lord – Enos 1:1

1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was 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)

Today, I’m pondering a phrase Enos used to describe the way his father raised him: “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The Apostle Paul used the same phrase when he taught parents how they should raise their children (Ephesians 6:4). In my mind, “nurture” and “admonition” represent different (and complementary) aspects of parenting:

  • To nurture a child is to help them grow. This includes providing for their physical needs, including food, clothing, and shelter, as well as providing education and training. It also includes protecting them from influences which could harm them, particularly when they are young and unprepared to face those influences. Nurture is primarily about our actions as parents.
  • To admonish a child is to remind them of what they should do and to urge them to do it. Admonition includes setting high expectations and communicating clearly when the child is falling short. It does not include harshness or anger, but it does include a willingness to deliver difficult messages with clarity (D&C 121:41-44). Admonition is primarily about the child’s choices and actions.

I see both nurture and admonition in the following description of the responsibilities of parents:

Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, September 23, 1995).

Today, I will consider how I am both nurturing and admonishing my children. I will ensure that I am providing an optimal environment for them to grow. I will also ensure that I’m giving them helpful feedback, to guide them in making choices which enable them to achieve their full potential.

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Then Shall I See His Face with Pleasure – Enos 1:27

27 And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen.
(Enos 1:27)

In contrast with the “wrestle,” the “struggling,” and the labor “with all diligence” which Enos described as he related his conversion experience, he ends his brief book with a description of the Final Judgment as a joyful reunion with God. “Then shall I see his face with pleasure,” he writes, “and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed.” This doesn’t sound at all like some of the other descriptions of the Final Judgment, even in the Book of Mormon. (See, for example, 2 Nephi 33:14-15, Jacob 6:9-10, 13, Alma 5:16-25Alma 12:13-14.)

At a conference of the Church in 1831, after prophesying of dark times ahead, Joseph Smith revealed a comforting truth: “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). Certainly that principle applies to the Final Judgment. If we have made the effort, as Enos did, to repent of our sins, to draw close to the Lord, and to contribute to God’s work, then we do not need to be afraid of what will happen after we die. Instead, like Enos, we can anticipate a joyful reunion with our Father in Heaven and with our Savior.

I remember watching Bruce R. McConkie’s final testimony, which he delivered less than 2 weeks before he died. I was particularly struck by this passage near the end of the talk:

And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.
But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way (“The Purifying Power of Christ,” General Conference, April 1985).

Today, I will remember that my return to the presence of God can be a happy and a peaceful experience. I will strive to repent of my sins and to serve others, so that I might look forward one day, as did Enos and Bruce R. McConkie, to a joyful reunion with God.

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Lessons from Lehi

As I’ve studied the words of Lehi over the past week, the following themes have emerged for me:

Perspective

  • In Lehi’s final messages to his sons, he tries to help them place their daily decisions in context and see the big picture. For example:

Agency

Happiness

  • God wants us to be happy, and His plan is designed to help us achieve that happiness. A central component of a happy life is home and family.
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My Faith Began to Be Unshaken – Enos 1:11-12

11 And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites.
12 And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.
(Enos 1:11-12)

We know that to have faith is to hope for things which we can’t see (Ether 12:6), and that faith is not a perfect knowledge (Alma 32:21, 26). But we also know that, when we exercise faith and receive blessings from the Lord, our faith in Him is strengthened (Alma 32:28-30).

Enos had a great desire to receive a remission of his sins and to experience “the joy of the saints” which his father had described. His soul hungered for this experience, and he prayed and wrestled before God all day and into the night (Enos 1:2-4). Finally, he heard a voice telling him that his sins were forgiven, and he simultaneously felt that his guilt was swept away (Enos 1:5-6).

Immediately, he began to pray for his people, the Nephites. Once again, this was not an easy prayer: he described it as “struggling in the spirit.” After some time, he heard a voice promising him that his people would be blessed as long as they were righteous (Enos 1:9-10).

At this point, after twice exercising faith and receiving an answer, Enos tells us that his “faith began to be unshaken.” He prayed with “many long strugglings” on behalf of his enemies, the Lamanites, and he received an answer to this prayer as well (Enos 1:11-16).

Today, I will remember that my faith becomes stronger as I exercise it. I will work hard as I pray, and I will strive to recognize the answers and blessings that the Lord sends in response to my faith. I will remember that the practice of exercising faith regularly will strengthen me spiritually and will empower me to exercise more faith in the future.

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