good cheer
Week 37 is scheduled for study Sept. 7-13, 2020. An important lesson to learn this week is that those who are righteous always have reason to “lift up your head and be of good cheer.” This is an important thing to learn in a world filled with wickedness. Choosing righteous living over the ways of the world makes all the difference.

Day 1

3 Nephi 1:4-21; 5:1-3 – The Lord will fulfill all His words.

The Nephites witnessed miraculous signs, but over time they forgot what they had experienced (see 3 Nephi 2:1). Recording your impressions will help you remember your spiritual experiences while studying 3 Nephi 1-7.

Here is a question for you. Is God obligated to you? The answer, like most answers in life, depends on what you are referring to when you ask the question. No is the answer if you think God should answer to you for whatever you want to have happen in life. But the answer is yes, if you are talking about His promised blessings. In this instance the Lord had promised and promised for centuries that His Son would come to earth and pay for all our sins then give us the gift of resurrection. So for that He was obligated. The question in the minds of these Nephites was “When?”.

What makes today’s reading special is that these Church members were in a unique situation. Those who were angry over the Christian’s belief in Christ were threatening to kill every last one of them if the sign of Christ’s birth didn’t happen according to the timetable they set for the sign to happen. The members of the Church had been exercising faith in the eventual coming of Christ, and many of the signs were being given, but now some were trying to rush the delivery of the promise or kill all those who believed. Where does that leave the ones who believe? They have no control over the timing of the promised birth of Christ, and they have no control over the deadline set by the unbelievers. They are caught in the middle, with time running out.

What does this mean for the faith of the believers, to have a time limit placed on God’s prophecy? They can’t control when God is going to deliver on His promises. Nor do they know when God plans on delivering on those promises. The manual tells us to read two passages to look for the ways in which the believers exercised their faith while they waited for the sign. But there is actually only one comment made between the two passages that tells us what they did, and that is in verse eight.

But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.

Remember it is called faith, not knowledge. Their only course was to continue to believe and watch, hoping and trusting that no matter what happened the sign would still be given, even it happened after they had been killed by the unbelievers. This is where my question comes in about whether or not God is obligated to us. What happens if we put our faith in something and we die, for whatever reason, without the promised blessing or sign having already been given. Or what happens if the sign is given and we are still killed by those who are angry with our belief in Christ? Do we lose out on anything? Are we cheated in some way of our eternal blessings because circumstances beyond our control deprived us of a happy outcome in mortality?

The answer to the above questions lies in remembering that God views this whole mortal experience from an immortal perspective. When He makes us a promise, it is rarely confined to just our mortal time. All His commandments and promised blessings are meant to be completely fulfilled and finally fulfilled after mortality is over, for they are all eternal in their scope. We, being mortal, only see the part of God’s promises that affect our time on earth, but that is a shortsighted view, and very incomplete in its scope.

This lack of vision, our inefficient view of the eternities is what makes exercising faith in God’s promises so difficult at times. Like these Nephites that were torn between trusting that God would swoop in and save them from death by delivering the sign just in the nick of time, and saying their goodbyes to their loved ones, so we too will have times in our lives when we will have to just recognize and resign ourselves to the fact that some things might not get resolved in mortality. Many of our blessings, and the proof of our faith, won’t happen until after mortality and we see things more clearly in their eternal perspective. So our faith must boil down to not when will God deliver on His promises, but will He deliver on His promises. For us to continue to exercise faith under any circumstances, we must believe that our Father and our Savior will always deliver, either here or hereafter, but they will ALWAYS deliver on their promises.

Day 2

3 Nephi 1:22; 2:1-3 – Forgetting spiritual experiences makes me vulnerable to Satan’s temptations.

The Nephites witnessed miraculous signs, but over time they forgot what they had experienced (see 3 Nephi 2:1). Recording your impressions will help you remember your spiritual experiences while studying 3 Nephi 1-7.

We have many current examples of what it means to forget about something special. These examples are all around us. Did you ever see something in nature that amazed you and caused you to experience a great sense of wonder or emotion? It could be a glorious vista, a towering waterfall, a special fall of snow that transformed the landscape, or some other wonder that you witnessed. Can you remember the emotions that you felt that made that scene so memorable? If you can, do you realize that a moment ago you had forgotten all about it? This is what happened with the Nephites. They had seen a day and a night and a day with no darkness. At the time they were in such a state of wonder they fell to the earth as if dead. Yet they soon forgot their original sense of wonder. This is normal human behavior.

Because we forget, we write things down to remember them. All year long, almost every, if not every introduction to each and every lesson has referred to your recording of what you are learning. See the text in bold above. But have you written even one journal entry? What about a blog, a post, a text, anything that records what you thought about and how you felt about what you read or experienced during your reading? We wouldn’t have much to think about during the sacrament if someone hadn’t written a record we now cherish as scripture. We wouldn’t have any appreciation for our ancestors had they not been faithful in writing and preserving their life stories. This principle is the very one demonstrated over and over again in the Book of Mormon. It is one of the main differences between the barbarity and the civility of the Lamanites and the Nephites respectively. The Lamanites did not write anything, but the Nephites kept records. Which society are you choosing to emulate?

The comment on the left reads: Those pesky journals

As I read the manual for this week’s commentary, note the comment I wrote in the margin next to their mention of “recording your spiritual experiences.” I am no better than anyone else when it comes to fighting writing in a journal, as important as it is. My excuse is that I use these commentaries and articles as my record for my children. I guess any excuse is as good as any other as long as we still aren’t doing what the prophets have told us to do.

The point of today’s lesson is that forgetting our spiritual experiences causes us to lose our way in spiritual matters. This is why it is so important that we do things in our lives that cause us to remember. Bearing our testimonies not only strengthens the faith of others who hear them, but they cause us to remember how we felt. This helps us keep the feeling alive. Isn’t this why we tell people we love them? Isn’t this the reason behind celebrating special occasions, like anniversaries, so we can remember how we felt when we first realized we were in love? The case for remembering can’t be stated too emphatically. Remembering is just too important to everything that is special in our lives.

Day 3

3 Nephi 2:11-12; 3:1-26; 5:24-26 – The Lord strengthens His Saints against spiritual danger.

The Nephites witnessed miraculous signs, but over time they forgot what they had experienced (see 3 Nephi 2:1). Recording your impressions will help you remember your spiritual experiences while studying 3 Nephi 1-7.

I want to make a special point here, mostly because if I don’t do it now I will forget. The world always has been, is, and always will be full of mostly people who are not interested or who are outright antagonistic against what God stands for. That is just a basic reality of life. To choose to be righteous, to keep commandments, to become a disciple (which means to accept someone else as our master), puts us in a very small class of people. We will always be in the minority, though it is a minority that experiences greater, more lasting happiness than anyone else on earth. The Lord’s people have always been but a fraction of a single percentage of the population of the whole earth.

There were times when living the gospel was respected and looked upon as favorable by the world’s eyes. They may not have been interested in doing what we do, but they recognized how the Lord prospered us as a people. That time is coming to an end. More and more, believing in Christ, especially from the Latter-day Saint perspective, is viewed with resentment and a hope to squash our faith and force us to do as the world does.

The Nephites, for a time, had to band together with the Lamanites just to survive the onslaught of the Gadiantons. Because they were all willing to come together and keep the commandments as a people, the Lord protected them from this overwhelming force that threatened their very existence. The further we advance into the last days, the more being close to each other spiritually will give us strength to resist the evils trying to control our every move and attitude. We are entering the days when Satan is seeking to so divide and anger the nations that chaos will reign everywhere we look.

Have you noticed that what we are beginning to experience as a world is exactly what happened to the Nephites when the Gadiantons were in charge? When the Gadiantons were in control of the government, all the dissensions and contentions cause the dissolution of their government. Everywhere people were seeking power, wealth, and influence. Their love waxed cold and all the refining influences the Spirit brings to a people were forgotten for those that were bold, brash, and cold hearted. They did not love their neighbor, but were willing to kill their neighbor to get what their neighbor possessed. This is where we are heading.

Our spiritual safety in the future will depend on our willingness to focus our lives on the teachings of the prophets, and not on the teachings of the world that surrounds us. We must have as our greatest concerns the gathering of Israel, making and keeping sacred covenants, staying or becoming more sensitive to the Spirit, and practicing service and generosity at all times. If we don’t do these things, banding together as Saints, we will be swallowed up by the influences of the world. The Saints simply must find that balance that allows us to still live in the world, but not participate in the world’s attitudes and beliefs. This is why personal revelation is so important to us. We must become more sensitive to the whisperings and directions of the Spirit in our daily lives.

The strength we seek from God doesn’t come in the form of greater wealth or influence, but it comes from spiritual refinement and gaining greater knowledge of eternal things. And that happens from practicing celestial behaviors: serving, praying, fasting, studying, etc.

Day 4

3 Nephi 5:12-26; 7:15-26 – I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

The Nephites witnessed miraculous signs, but over time they forgot what they had experienced (see 3 Nephi 2:1). Recording your impressions will help you remember your spiritual experiences while studying 3 Nephi 1-7.

I have said this before in other articles, so my comments here will be brief. Most of us don’t know what it means to be a disciple. Here is one of the definitions of a disciple found in the Webster’s 1828 edition of the dictionary.

A follower; an adherent to the doctrines of another. Hence the constant attendants of Christ were called his disciples; and hence all Christians are called his disciples, as they profess to learn and receive his doctrines and precepts.

To be a disciple isn’t casual, like applying one of Murphy’s laws, or the sayings of Confucius. Real discipleship requires commitment to the cause or the goals of what the master of that cause teaches. It requires devotion and submission to what the master teaches. We must change. We cannot be disciples and remain as we were yesterday or as we awoke this morning.

The world rails against submitting ourselves to another’s will. “That is a sign of slavery, of a weak will”, they cry! “Free yourself to think for yourself.” Being a disciple is not a popular thing to be. This is why being a disciple is such a private thing. Our discipleship has to become the main focus of our life, coming before convenience, popularity, prosperity, or anything else. It is deeply personal, our guiding star.

An apprentice submits to his master’s teachings because the apprentice doesn’t know yet how to be a blacksmith, a cobbler, or a butcher. Just so, we have no idea how to turn ourselves into people fit to lie a celestial life. We need someone to teach us who knows how to live that way. This is why commit to making and keeping covenants, they allow God to teach us what we say we want to learn. He is committed to the process of our changing for the better. Are we?

Improving Our Teaching

Help your family liken the scriptures to themselves.

Saying we should liken the scripture unto ourselves is much easier said than done. In years past, how easy was it for you to find a way to apply the war chapters of the Book of Mormon to your personal life and behaviors? If your efforts were anything like mine, you were a pretty miserable failure. Why do you think it is difficult at times to apply something from the scriptures to our current daily life?

Over time I have come to realize that applying the scriptures requires me to be able to see a comparison between what I am reading at the moment and how I currently live the gospel covenants and commandments, or at least how I would like to live them. To do this we must be constantly comparing what we read to how we feel about the principles behind what we are studying. We must be ever on the lookout for ways in which our behavior connects on some level with those being discussed in the scriptures we read. We have to learn to recognize that though the century in which the scripture story took place was most certainly not the same as the one in which we live, humans are still humans, no matter when we live. We all have pettiness that needs to be overcome, jealousy, envy, apathy, anger – the whole range of human emotions. And whatever brought them joy is sure to bring us joy as well.

The circumstances in the scriptures may have been different from ours, but the principles don’t change. This means we must be constantly aware of the reason, or a reason behind a commandment being discussed in the scriptures. Ask why the people might be having such a difficult time living it. Ask why the Lord was praising them for demonstrating certain behaviors and attitudes. Do you think that the Lord would feel the same about you if you showed those same attitudes and behaviors?

One of the sad realities of Latter-day Saint culture is that some have decided that challenging certain points of view, or asking questions, shows a lack of faith or demonstrates an apostate attitude. This is a very dangerous attitude to adopt. Without questioning, searching, and trying to understand how the gospel works, even the prophets would have been without enlightenment. How many times does Alma make a passing comment to someone about how hard he worked to learn something new about the gospel. He fasted, he prayed, he studied, and most importantly, he questioned and sought for an understanding that wasn’t in print before him at the time. This is why the Book of Mormon is such a revelation for all of us. It is because those who wrote their records asked questions and sought to expand their understanding. This is what it means to liken the scriptures unto ourselves. It is to try to see how many ways the scriptures can apply to us so we can benefit from what they have to teach. They act as a springboard for new questions and new topics of study and inquiry.

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BoM Week 37

(3 Nephi 1-7)