partake of the fruit
Week 03 is scheduled for study Jan. 15-21, 2024. Lehi’s desire that his family members partake of the fruit is also a universal desire of God. He wants us to immerse ourselves in His love. This week look for ways in which you can experience God’s love for you and for those around you.

Personal Note: For the last five years the Come, Follow Me lessons have all been preceded by a sentence or two in italics. In each of these precursors to the lessons we have been encouraged to seek the Spirit and record, in some way or another, the impressions and directions the Spirit gives us as part of our personal studies. This year the church is no longer providing us with that admonition. I know it’s not because it’s no longer important that we write our impressions during our studies of the scriptures. So why they have stopped encouraging us to record our thoughts makes me nervous. It makes me wonder if our time of warning has passed and we are now fully accountable if we don’t do what we have been told to do for the last five years. Just a thought for you to consider.

Day 1

1 Nephi 7:6-21 – I can forgive others.

My comments today may seem only distantly related to the topic, but I think they are what we need to think about for today’s lesson. Everything in the plan of salvation is about family. We cannot be saved as individuals, meaning we cannot become gods as one who stands alone. Godhood is only for couples. Eternal progression can only happen with posterity, which requires children. See the subtle logic there? 😉

All of our covenants and ordinances are designed to make us personally worthy to enter into the final covenant relationship of marriage. Why? So we can fulfill the first commandment given to Adam and Eve, to have children. Granted, not all of us who marry will have children in this life, but the marriage relationship is just that important. Moses 1:39 reminds us that God’s whole purpose for doing all that He does is to bring about our exaltation, which can only happen as couples.

I have been rethinking my views of Lehi’s family, as I talked about in last week’s lessons. This week I watched the video about Lehi sending his sons back to Jerusalem to get Ishmael and his family, so Lehi’s children could get married and have posterity. This was an essential part of the plan to raise up a nation in the land of promise.

After watching the movie it occurred to me that what always seemed a trite statement on Nephi’s part was really a telling reality that they were family. After Laman and Lemuel tried to kill Nephi they asked for his forgiveness and he said that “I did frankly forgive them all that they had done.” In the past I had dismissed that comment as “Yeah, right. They just tried to kill you!” But as I considered the principle behind his comment, I changed my mind.

Family is a very intimate relationship. I don’t know what it is about being family, but not only are some of our fondest memories potentially found in our family bonds, but some of our greatest hurts come from those we love most. It is our family members who know our weaknesses better than anyone else. They have known us longest and have been with us in more circumstances than anyone else. For a spouse to have the same kind of familiarity with you as your brother or sister you have to be married at least 20 years. That’s a long time. And as children we are with our siblings more than many couples are together each day. Children learn together, play together, and explore life together. You really learn a person’s personality more intimately in the process of growing up together.

My wife and I discussed the nature of the relationship of siblings, and we both agreed (not that this agreement makes us right) that as siblings we can be both the most forgiving and the most hurtful with each other. Yet even when we are the most hurtful to one another, especially when we are younger, we are more free to forgive and forget. Holding grudges tends to be more of an adult thing than a child thing. Does that make holding grudges a learned behavior? I don’t know.

Nephi’s brothers were testy anyway. I don’t know if they were at that stage of development where the child wants out from under mom and dad’s wings and wants to stand alone, or if they were just still hormone laden. The point is that they had volatile tempers. Everyone in the family knew this and had experienced this before. It seemed to be getting worse, not better with time. When they tied Nephi and left him to be eaten by predators, I find it interesting that they didn’t just kill him outright. This reminds me of the sons of Israel who threw Joseph into a well thinking that his death, since not directly at their hands would excuse them from punishment for the event.

Nephi returned to his brothers and continued to try to persuade them to keep the commandments. This sounds like someone who wasn’t all that surprised at their reaction to his words, and was more concerned that they were doing themselves a harm than himself a harm. Now I can see why Nephi was able to say that he frankly forgave them. It also puts into better perspective why the whole Book of Mormon is written for the benefit of the Lamanites, who are repeatedly referred to as “the Lamanites, our brethren.”

This episode also acts as a way to frame the Savior’s readiness to forgive each of us for the spiritual crimes we commit when we rebel and are willful. Jesus is always ready to “frankly forgive.”

Day 2

1 Nephi 8 – Holding fast to the word of God leads me to the Savior and helps me feel His love.

The connection of the Tree of Life to the rest of existence is the iron rod/the word of God. In Lehi’s dream there is no way to get to the tree, but by holding fast to the iron rod. It is the only thing that leads directly to the tree. There are a number of groups wandering about, not knowing where to go. Some drown in the river of filthiness, some wander into paths unknown, while whole concourses of people work their way toward the great and spacious building, many because they know of no better option. But to get to the tree one has to grab hold of the iron rod and “cling” to it. If we don’t cling to the word of God the mists of darkness will cause us to let go of the rod, the word, and we will be lost.

I love the description of the mists. They aren’t just any kind of mist, they are mists of darkness. This tells me that they block our sight so we can’t see what is ahead of us. This is why letting go of our one sure anchor to our path to God must be clung to. The mists or in other words, the distractions of the world, cause us to lose our focus on obtaining and enjoying the love of God. They put boats, vacations, advancement at work, bowling, you name it, in front of our eyes and try to get us to take our mind off where we really want to go. Think of it like that movie about the dog that periodically loses focus anytime someone yells, “Squirrel!” Just mention that one word and the dog is off and running in some other direction from the one he needs to be going. Funny that we find this character so humorous and we are no different in our own behavior. Humor is a funny thing. 😉

My personal belief is that we all feel the love of God in small ways any time we do good. But if we want to experience His love in its purity, in its full deliciousness, that is when we must find our way to the tree by experiencing the word of God every day. We are playing roulette with our own salvation when we choose to go off and play for a time then just expect we can return to the iron rod anytime we want. That is like stepping off the path into the mists of darkness with the assumption that nothing can make us lose our sense of direction back to the iron rod. Life just doesn’t work that way. To return to God requires daily, constant effort. Hence the word “clinging” in reference to how we treat the scriptures and the words of the prophets. Both are required for us to experience the love of God in its purity.

Day 3

1 Nephi 10:2-16 – Ancient prophets knew about Jesus Christ’s mission and testified of Him.

In my own ignorance, as a youth, I thought that those who lived anciently were spiritually ignorant. Why? Because most of the history of the world hadn’t happened yet, and we live in the end times, therefore we must know more than they did. We know the plan of salvation, while they must have been casting about in the darkness of ignorance, because they didn’t know why they were here. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you are paying attention as you read the scriptures, the prophets of old were preaching the entirety of the plan of salvation from the very beginning. All the scatterings and gatherings of the Lord’s people were taught and prophesied about. The whole purpose of repenting to gain salvation through the grace and mercy of the Redeemer was taught. They knew when Jesus was going to come to earth. The prophets taught those who lived the law of Moses why the law was given in the first place, to point the people to the coming of the Messiah who would deliver them from the consequences of their sins, and who would give them all the gift of eternal life through his resurrection.

It is true that in the Lord’s wisdom each society lived under laws that differed from those we live under now, but that doesn’t mean He left them ignorant of the path to their own salvation. That path has been taught in its fullness in every age of the world. Just as our path to exaltation is in and through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, so too is theirs. This is one thing that has remained constant from Adam and Eve to the present day. All prophets have taught the same gospel truths, that salvation has but one source only, and that is in and through Christ’s atonement for our sins.

Day 4

1 Nephi 10:17-19 – God will reveal truth to me by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Baptism is an Aaronic priesthood ordinance. The bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost is a Melchizedek priesthood ordinance. Today, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost is done at the same time. But what about anciently? To my knowledge only the prophets held the higher priesthood. If this is the case then did the people in general have the gift of the Holy Ghost? If so, did the prophet have to lay their hands on the entire population? I can’t find any information that addresses this question.

One thing I personally feel we have lost sight of as a church is that the influence of the Holy Ghost is far more prevalent than we give Him credit for. If you would like to see an example, look at the article 7 Ways to Follow the Spirit. I referenced this last week as well. There is a video clip on Youtube about a Christian American football player who learned to follow the promptings of the Spirit. When I saw this clip I was deeply moved. I wondered how he could feel the Spirit without having the gift of the Holy Ghost. It was only after pondering it for a while that I came to the conclusion that the Spirit is active in every culture, but forgiveness of sin that leads to full redemption and exaltation can only come from having the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This means that even if the people of Nephi, for example, didn’t have the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit could still play a huge part in their life as they learned to follow His promptings and impressions. The Lord still counts such obedience as righteous behavior, even if they don’t have the actual gift, because they are living the commandments He has seen fit to give them. Even if they didn’t have the gift of the Holy Ghost in this life, they will receive it in the spirit world, so they can continue their progression. That is my personal view. Like I said, I haven’t found any source from the Brethren about whether or not ancient people, as a whole, had the gift of the Holy Ghost.

My main point here is that all truth comes through the power and influence of the Holy Ghost, whether or not you have the actual gift of the Holy Ghost bestowed upon you. It is through His influence that our minds are opened to spiritual realities. We cannot understand and comprehend many of the doctrines of the gospel without His personal input to enable us to understand those parts of the plan of salvation. His part in our daily life is crucial to our salvation. Our standing with Him makes or breaks us spiritually. We may choose to cling to the iron rod, the word of God, but it is the Spirit who makes the gospel relevant in our life.

Personal Study

Let Learners share their own discoveries.

Forgive me if this sounds like just plain common sense, but sometimes we need to be reminded of even the most basic things.

Most of us were raised with people who lectured the whole time during the lesson hour. Our job was to just sit and absorb what they fed us. Input from the class in such situations is often limited to pat answers, just to make sure we are all operating on the same assumptions. The point of today’s material is that there is great value in learning for ourselves. (This is why we do “Home centered, Church supported gospel study.”) When we do that we tend to learn what is actually new to us, or we come to realize something we already knew, but this time it is with a deeper realization. Testimonies are usually in this latter category. We already know the church is true on some level, but now we see it in a new light or we gain a deeper appreciation for something we already learned.

This principle of individual learning is not new. God answers our prayers and matures us in this very way. He lets us work with knowledge we already have and waits for us to seek for more knowledge. That is how He is able to help us see a new way of solving an old problem, realize that we already were aware of something we didn’t know we already knew, or are able to piece together how things that seem very separate from each other actually are related.

When searching the scriptures and using this method of working with a class to learn something, don’t expect quick answers. Those don’t usually happen. Since we all discover things at our own pace and in our own time, some will use what is said in the class and the fruit of having been in that class may not become evident for years down the road. Other times someone asks the right question or makes the right statement and it triggers questions or answers in our own heads on the spot.

Using the exploring model to teach is slow and unpredictable. It also requires the teacher to ask open-ended questions. If you can give a chapter and verse or a yes or no to answer the question then you have probably asked the wrong question. The teacher’s questions need to be thought provoking. For example, instead of asking what Nephi did when he found Laban passed out in the alley, you could ask something like, “Do you think Nephi was justified in killing Laban for the sake of the brass plates? How do you justify your answer.” You might even talk about what it means to follow the Spirit and how difficult it can be at times. Let the class draw on their own experiences to answer the questions. But be aware that as the teacher you will need to remain in control of the class. Asking these kinds of questions can take the class topics spiraling out of control very easily. This will take some practice and care to be respectful of people’s feelings and experiences while still staying on the topic you, as the teacher, choose to discuss.

The method of letting children make their own discoveries is a priceless tool. Each discovery they make will be at one level, and you may think it is not deep enough, but if you give them time to sit on that knowledge for a while, eventually they will see that there is more depth to your original question. Again, this is how God leads us along our own path of self discovery as we feel our way back to Him.

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BoM03-2024 – Come and Partake of the Fruit