Week 42 is scheduled for study October 12-18, 2020. There is much to consider this week. As children of the covenant the Lord expects a lot from us, and to help us He has given us many great privileges.
3 Nephi 20-22 – In the latter days, God will perform a great and marvelous work.
I am approaching today’s lesson indirectly. The manual talks about us helping to fulfill the Lord’s promises to ancient Israel through the events of the latter days. My concern is: “Why I should care about promises made to them thousands of years ago?” And for that matter, why should I care about the events we are promised will happen possibly thousands of years in our future? Isn’t there enough for me to be worried about just making it through the trials of today?
I spoke of my concerns to my wife. She often says something in such conversations that spark a light in my head that leads me to answers, so I value our talks. This time she mentioned something that seemed, at the time, totally unrelated to these chapters. She talked about faith, hope, and charity, and emphasized what she had learned about hope. Well that made my light turn on. My concern was over why the Lord is always so concerned that we know what will happen in the future. Why tell us about events that will have zero effect to change our current situations? My wife’s comments about hope gave me an answer I could wrap my head around.
I have a friend in Africa who wrote me about a missionary he knew who returned from his service and went off the deep end. My friend wanted to know why life was so hard after we serve the Lord. I wrote him back and told him that life is hard, with or without the Lord. Hard is just the nature of this life. What makes the difference is that the Lord gives us hope that someday all things will be set to rights. All wrongs will be righted, all offenses forgiven, and all mistakes fixed. In order for us to make it through the injustices and trials of this life we need to see a vision of where this life fits in the grand scheme of things. This is why we have had revealed to us information about our pre-earth life and about the judgment and eternal rewards hereafter.
What the Lord gives us is vision, comprehension, and hope for a better future than what our present circumstances may indicate will be our lot in life. By telling the Nephites of His plans for the destiny of Israel, He was letting the people know what they had to look forward to for their posterity. Even though their posterity would go through trials and great tribulations, all because of their own choices, at some point in the future the Lord would show them many tender mercies. He would gather them together and give them power over their enemies, and never again would he have reason to punish them, but would bless them for as long as the earth should stand. What a grand message of hope for these people.
This is why the Lord is so concerned that we also see what He has in store for us. There are many trials awaiting us, and without the hope of what lies at the other end of those trials, it would be easy for us to give up along the way, because it will at times seem endless and hopeless. But when we learn to look to the Lord’s promised blessings for the future, we will have the courage to soldier on in keeping the commandments, because we will be striving to be worthy of those future blessings. It is this hope in the Lord’s promises that helps us continue to exercise our faith and continue to be charitable despite any circumstances around us that would make it seem unreasonable to act that way. It is the hope God gives us in these future promises that keep us going from day to day. Without hope there is only despair.
I recommend going back and rereading these chapters. Look at them again with the view of Christ offering them hope in his promised blessings. Consider how this might help them exercise greater faith in their current lives based on the hope of the future blessings he promised them.
3 Nephi 20:10–12; 23; 26:1-12 – The Savior wants me to search the words of the prophets.
Have you noticed that often when the prophets speak they give behavioral counsel, but don’t teach much besides basic doctrine? Every now and again an apostle or prophet will give us gems of wisdom about doctrines, but most of what is taught are things even the new members of the church can understand and put into practice. The Lord expects us to learn deeper things from the Spirit. To this end we are told to search the scriptures.
When Jesus spoke to the Nephites he not only told them to search the scriptures, but he personally quoted an entire chapter from Isaiah to them. He assured them that answers were to be found in the scriptures. This raises the question in my mind – can the limited writings of the prophets we have in the way of scriptures really answer all the concerns and problems in our lives today? Is just reading the scriptures enough to find all those answers?
I would suggest that the answer to that last question is no. If all the answers we need in the scriptures come from just the scriptures themselves then why are there more than a thousand Christian denominations? They all have the same Bible to read, so why do they interpret it so differently? I think the key here is the gift of the Holy Ghost.
When the Savior tells us to search the scriptures we are told to pray and ponder. When we have the gift of the Holy Ghost, praying and pondering, while reading the scriptures, opens doors of understanding and invites testimony from him. The gift enables him to teach us what we need to know today. This is the line upon line concept we learn about in the scriptures. This is why we can continue to read and reread the Book of Mormon, or any other book of scripture, and find new doctrines we didn’t see there the last 30 times we read that passage. The Holy Ghost makes us aware of what we have missed before.
So what do you think about the Savior’s injunction for us to search the scriptures? Do you think he wants us to just learn what is on the printed page? Do you feel that there is value in the process of searching? Searching requires asking questions and seeking for understanding. Isn’t this the catalyst that leads to new ideas and insights we didn’t have before? What is the value of just reading the scriptures, compared with seeking for enlightenment through searching the scriptures using the gift of the Holy Ghost? I really think that what the Lord wants from us is to have an enquiring mind and inquisitive hearts, and to want to know what He would have us learn from our current studies.
3 Nephi 22; 24 – God is merciful to those who return to Him.
For today’s lesson I would like to just share with you a personal experience I had lately. I hope you will reflect on how this might connect with you in your life.
Our daughter was in need of some help. My wife and I made a generous offer to help her. Week after week went by without any communication from our daughter. We began to wonder if she wasn’t taking our offer seriously. The more time went by the more we were hurt that she was apparently ignoring our magnanimous offer. I was sitting one day thinking about it when the thought went through my mind that we should tell her that if she was really so unappreciative or uncaring about the offer that we would just withdraw the offer and move on with our lives.
Almost immediately another thought came into my mind. The Lord has made all of us some wonderful offers that take very little for us to receive them. Yet for all of His generosity how many of us either don’t ever respond to His offers or we ignore Him for years on end before deciding to finally take Him up on His promised blessings? I was feeling hurt and offended because our daughter was seemingly ignoring our very generous offer, yet the Lord never seems to be offended when we ignore or mistreat His very generous offers to bless us.
One of the amazing things about God is His consistent demonstration of patience while He waits for us to decide whether we want what He has to offer us. He never withdraws the offers. He just works with us and waits to see if we will decide that we want what He has to offer us. We can be the nastiest kind of people, cursing Him and all that He stands for, but in a moment of clarity if we decide to change He welcomes us with open arms. This is true mercy.
3 Nephi 25:5–6 – My heart should turn to my ancestors.
I like the title of today’s lesson. I wondered what it takes for us to have our heart turn to our ancestors then I remembered that the Lord won’t ever force anything upon us. Turning our heart to those who preceded us in mortality is something we must choose to seek out. It is only when we look for information about our forebears that our heart will begin to change and we will genuinely begin to feel a connection to them and the lives they led in mortality.
One of the great overarching themes of mortality is the effort of Satan to divide us and keep us apart, and the effort of the Lord to unite us and bring us together as a family. And not just for those currently living, but for all time. He wants us to see that all generations are connected as one extended unit, the family of man. Adam is our father, and Eve is our mother. All of us belong to each other no matter when we enter or leave mortality.
Family history work is the tool the Lord has put into place to help us learn about each other, and to learn to care about each other. This is the spirit of Elijah, that spirit that binds us together as an extended family.
FHE/Personal Scripture Study
3 Nephi 23:6–13 – Our personal record
One of the great and lasting lies of every generation is that our personal life is unimportant and that no one will be interested in our boring existence. Look at almost every book ever published. What are they almost always about, if not about someone’s life, whether real or imagined? Most of the great literature of any culture is about people, ordinary people, and the extraordinary things that happen to each of us in our lives.
When the Lord tells us to keep a record of our life, He is acknowledging that our life is worth recording. We usually don’t see what our lives are worth, but those in future generations are grateful for the records we make of our challenges, hardships, triumphs, and progress through life. They learn from our records, just as we learn from our ancestors’ records that every generation faces similar challenges, with similar solutions. But if no one makes the record then the lessons are lost, the connection is lost from one generation to the next. What a loss for future generations! We simply cannot afford to believe the lie that no one will want to read about whatever it is we have to say. It doesn’t matter if our writing is imperfect. Every generation’s writing is imperfect. That is what adds character to their stories.
The Come, Follow Me manual encourages us to record our thoughts and feelings somewhere, anywhere, but record them as we read the scriptures. There is good reason for that. My own confession? I have long told myself that no one is interested in my life or the things I have suffered. I certainly haven’t had any grand triumphs to record. But I know I should be writing something to leave for my posterity. Since I have not written much in the way of journaling, I have decided that my many years of article writing on gospel-related topics will be my enduring testimony of all that I have learned about the gospel of Christ, and how I feel about it. My children are not currently reading what I write, so I just continue writing with the hopes that one of the generations that follow them will turn their hearts toward me and seek out my records so they can connect with me and these writings will bless their lives. That is the only hope that keeps me going.
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(3 Nephi 20-26)