Lehi, King Benjamin, and President Monson On Why We Follow the Prophet

It happened again last night, and not for the first time: I re-read a familiar section in the Book of Mormon and noticed something that had never arrested my attention before.

In King Benjamin’s classic speech, a major landmark in the Book of Mormon, he tells the people this about the the coming change of leadership from himself to his son:

…if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land…  (Mosiah 2:31, emphasis added)

Benjamin wasn’t the only Book of Mormon leader to teach about the reason for faithfully following the prophet; Lehi explained it twice:

And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord. (1 Nephi 3:5, emphasis added)

And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it. (2 Nephi 1:27, emphasis added)

Nephi’s brothers, you may remember, resented being ordered around, against their natural inclinations, by a bunch of old white men in Salt Lake City…oops, I mean, by their younger brother.  (/sarcasm)

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An Origin of Apostasy

It seems like there’s a pretty standard path to apostasy that some believers follow:

Step 1: “I have an idea about something mysterious or controversial in the gospel.”  Not dangerous–this is a natural result of study and reflection, and undoubtedly happens often.

Step 2: “This idea makes sense to me.  I find it useful.”  Getting a little risky here–it’s so easy to be seduced by our own imagination, hence the ample warnings against such in the scriptures.

Step 3: “Since I find my theory reasonable and attractive, I think that it is true.”  Patently fallacious.  Reason and attractiveness do not make ideas true; these criteria are arbitrary, not naturally corresponding to fact.  Plenty of things could be reasonable and attractive but not true–hence the prophetic warnings against the “philosophies of men.”  At this step, one is rapidly approaching apostasy, if not already there.

Step 4: “I will now enlighten the world with my valuable discoveries.”  At this point, someone is very likely in a state of apostasy.

The lesson is clear: beware of pride.  We must keep a very tight rein on our vain imaginations.  This is important for bloggers–including me–to always remember.

Jacob’s Temple Sermon

Last Sunday in Gospel Doctrine, we discussed Jacob chapters 1-3 in the Book of Mormon.  I noticed that Jacob says that his sermon in chapters 2-3 was given “in the temple” (1:17).  I looked through the sermon to see if perhaps that setting influenced the content of his message.  Jackpot.

Consider just the broadest outline of the address.  Jacob begins his sermon by telling the people that he was fulfilling his duty as a servant of the Lord (the “all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth,” he takes pains to note from the start, in 2:4) by bringing them an authorized message (2:2-11, especially verse 11).

The first major doctrinal topic that Jacob broaches, in 2:12-22, is the necessity of giving up our worldly gain and selfish desires for the good of others and the work of the Church.  Look at some of the Topical Guide subjects listed in those verses: almsgiving, generosity, welfare, worldliness, good works.  Jacob ties these themes of sacrifice in to a general command to obey the commandments (2:21), and, being the Book of Mormon, warns against pride.

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It’s Time For Politically Conservative Mormons To Follow Their Church On Illegal Immigration

I’ve written about this once in each of the last three years (here, here, and here), and as the Church’s position keeps getting clearer, the reactions of many of my fellow political conservatives keeps getting more hostile.  A posting on the Church’s official web site last week makes it clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favors some kind of amnesty–including guest worker programs, at the very least–for illegal aliens. 

Conservatives in general may blanche at this, and they’re welcome to–their suspicions about the Church’s motives in this don’t hold water, anyway.  (Pandering to Hispanic populations?  If the Church wanted to pander to politically sensitive groups, we wouldn’t have recently offended everyone who supports gay marriage.  Between that issue and this one, now we’ve alienated everybody!)

But for those of us who accept the divinity of the LDS Church’s claims and the authority of its leadership, there should be no argument.  In too many comments on other blogs and quotes in other news articles, conservatives are bristling about this to the point of rebellion.  Continue reading

The Book of Ether and “The Power Cycle”

Students of the Book of Mormon are familiar with the “pride cycle,” that part of Helaman edited to warn us about society’s tendency to become morally slack in times of wealth.  An equally important observation is given in the second half of Ether, a sequence that might be called “The Power Cycle,” or even “The Politics Cycle,” as it shows us the ruin brought upon communities when selfish leaders claw their way to the top by any means necessary. 

Mormon edited the pride cycle; the power cycle is the work of his son, Moroni, who writes it as a cold, hard overview of a civilization’s tragic tunnel vision, its refusal to learn and remember its own lessons.  Time and again over hundreds of years, those in authority indulge in petty games of power, to the detriment of their people, who themselves often fall into general wickedness as their leaders fail to guide them in more spiritual paths.  Moroni’s commentary in these chapters gives us some of the Book of Mormon’s clearest inspiration (the rejection of the prophet Ether’s ministry is Moroni’s launching point for his famous sermon about the power of faith) and direct instruction (such as his declarations in Ether 8 that he’s writing all of this so that readers in the last days will “repent of your sins” and “be persuaded to do good continually“).

Perhaps most significantly for contemporary readers, no specific ideology is identified with any of the scores of unworthy leaders who hinder their people over time–one bad leader is often overthrown by another who turns out to be equally bad.  Let’s remember this on election days.

Though I’ve added and changed some elements, my notes below are based mostly upon Hugh Nibley’s work, “The Prophetic Book of Mormon,” from the book of the same name.

 

THE POWER CYCLE Greed/wickedness/lust for power Prophets minister People repent? Result of repenting or not
Round 1 7:4-7 n/a Yes, 7:13 Posterity, 7:14
2 7:15-17 7:23-24 Yes, 7:25-26 Prosperity & peace, 7:26-27
3 8:2-19, 9:1-11 n/a n/a Genocide/destruction, 9:12
4 –Happiness 9:13-25 9:26-27 9:28-29 Yes, 9:34-35 Revival, 9:35
5—Happiness, 10:1-4 10:5-15 n/a n/a Finally, a righteous leader / people prosper, 10:16
6—Happiness, 10:17-29 10:30-34 11:1-3 No: prophets rejected, 11:5 “Great calamity,” 11:6
7 11:7 n/a Yes, 11:8 “mercy,” 11:8
8 11:10-11 11:12 No: prophets rejected, 11:13 Ongoing wickedness, 11:14-16
9 11:17-19 11:20-21 No: prophets rejected, 11:22 n/a (status quo)
10 n/a 12:2-3 No: Ether rejected, 13:13,17,22 “Great war,” 13:15

“Ceased not,” 13:22

Robbers, 13:26

Theft, paranoia, selfishness, 14:1-2

Total destruction, 15:12-30