Week 4 is scheduled for study Jan. 22-28, 2024. When we arm ourselves with righteousness we fill our life with sacred things that lead us to a life of holiness. This begins by our devotion to the word of God and the keeping of His commandments. We all need to be armed with righteousness.
1 Nephi 11 – God sent Jesus Christ as an expression of His love.
Moses 1:39 says that God’s purpose – His reason for doing all that He does, is to bring about our exaltation and our eternal life. He wants us to be able to live as He does, and to experience the joy He has all the time. Hymn 136 in our hymnal is I Know that My Redeemer Lives. Here is a snippet from that hymn.
“I know that my Redeemer lives. What comfort this sweet sentence gives! … He lives to bless [us] with his love.”
The word “me” was changed to “us” because it was quoted in a General Conference address by Sister Susan H. Porter. I just wrote an article entitled, “Condescension versus Condescension.” In that article I discuss what it means for Christ to be condescending toward us.
Surely we all are able to recognize that God is more than we are. He is more righteous, more powerful, more intelligent, merciful, kind, and so forth. He is more of all that is good in this universe than we can even comprehend. He does not need us to be happy, but we need Him in order to be happy. His condescension, His willingness to lower Himself from His exalted position in order to help us and lift us up to where He is is His condescension. God expresses His love for us by doing all in His power to give us the strength to become better people than we currently are. To this end He sent His Beloved Son, Jesus, our Savior.
If God had been able to come to earth a second time, Jesus would not have been needed. But God is already resurrected and exalted. Living in mortality is a phase of life He has already passed through and cannot revisit. Christ could, because he was still a spirit and was in need of a physical body. God loves us so much that He appointed Jesus to come to earth to demonstrate His (God’s) love for each of us in all that he did. Jesus did not enter mortality to demonstrate his own power and glory, his own love and mercy, but the power, glory, love and mercy of God, our Father. True, Jesus loves us just like God does, but showing off his own position of glory wasn’t the reason Jesus came. He came to show us God’s love for us, and God’s plan for our salvation. Jesus was the facilitator and demonstrator of God’s love for His children. Only someone who fully understood God’s love for us could demonstrate God’s love as though God, Himself was among us.
1 Nephi 12-14 – I can be “armed with righteousness” and power.
The title of today’s lesson can be a difficult life lesson for any of us to learn. Our own sense of insecurity often prevents us from believing that we are personally capable of being armed with righteousness and great power or glory. That is what others attain to, not us. We feel we are ordinary people, not extraordinary people. That is what we tell ourselves, but that is just not true. Ordinary people don’t join the Church. They don’t make covenants and keep them. You have. That makes you extraordinary. That makes you special in the eyes of others and in God’s eyes.
The whole point and purpose of God giving us covenants to make is that in the keeping of those covenants He can endow us with power that can be had in no other way. He desires that we experience the joy that comes from receiving the power, strength, endurance, and increased love from the covenants we make with Him. Remember that only those who want to become like God, Himself need make covenants with Him. All others remain outside the church to live their lives as they see fit, without all the blessings and power that comes from making and keeping the exalting covenants available only within Christ’s church.
To be holy means to be righteous. Those who keep covenants are given, through their interactions with the Holy Spirit, power to be and to feel what couldn’t have been experienced in any other way. When we keep the commandments and honor our covenants we become holy people, righteous individuals whom God blesses with abilities and responsibilities among His children that blesses everyone around us. We are privileged to become more like Christ in very real and tangible ways. It is this very transformation of our soul that will allow us to be comfortable living in the eternities with such people as God and Christ.
The question is not whether you can or should be able to receive the blessing of being armed with righteousness and with holy power. Because you have made and keep sacred covenants God gives only to those who want to become like Him, the question is how much righteousness and power do you want?
1 Nephi 13:1-9; 14:9-11 – What is the “Great and abominable church” that Nephi saw?
It can be difficult to take in and accept that when it comes to our future exaltation there is only one path to that end, the gospel of Christ, as administered by his ordained servants. All other ideas outside this strait (meaning narrow) path lead us away from the exaltation we seek. There are many noble and peaceful ways to live our lives, and within these philosophies a measure of happiness can be found. But the happiness they bring can last only as long as we are in this mortal life. They offer nothing that can last beyond death. The only thing that can exist beyond death that will benefit our soul are the covenants God gives through His ordained servants found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
God calls these other philosophies of living abominations, because in the end they all deprive us of the eternal glory He wants for us. If in the end they deny us the joy and gladness that comes from being able to return home and live with God, Christ, and our loved ones then it doesn’t matter if we choose the cutthroat path to riches or the pacifism of other philosophies – the end result is the same.
1 Nephi 15:1-11 – God will answer me if I ask in faith.
I have been reading and rereading verse 11. I have read it many times in the last couple of weeks. Many of us feel that receiving revelation is somehow difficult and complicated. If it wasn’t then we would have received more of it. Surely receiving revelation can’t be anything simple. Yet when you read verse 11, what else can we believe?
11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and me in , believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.
Here is my own rewording of the verse you just read. A hard heart is an unbelieving heart. Belief is a choice, not something that either just happens or doesn’t happen. Choosing to believe something is a choice anyone can make. No one can be forced to believe something they don’t want to believe. And they can refuse to believe even the most sound and rational things, if they really don’t want to believe, for whatever reason. So if I choose to believe that means I have a softened heart, for I can be led by God to do good things. This is what happens when we choose to believe in what He claims. One who is willing to believe God believes the scriptures, the prophets, and the Spirit.
When we choose to believe the commandments we are more likely to be diligent in keeping those commandments, for we believe that they will change us and bring us happiness and joy. Nephi tells his brothers in verse 11 that if they would just choose to believe that God is telling them the truth, and be strict with themselves in keeping God’s commandments then when they ask for something from the Lord He will answer their prayers. Nephi doesn’t say how God will make things known to those who believe and are faithful to Him, but that God will find a way to make Himself known to those who ask, because they believe God will answer their questions and petitions.
If we want God to answer our prayers we have to choose to believe in what his prophets, the scriptures, and the Spirit teach us, be strict with ourselves about keeping His commandments, and choose to believe that God will answer us, because He loves us. It is just that simple. It takes some practice, but the process of receiving answers to our prayers isn’t rocket science. God will answer anyone’s prayers if they choose to obey Him and keep His commandments.
1 Nephi 15:23-25 – Holding fast to the word of God helps me resist Satan’s influence.
The word of God is found in the words of the living prophets, the scriptures, and the influence and promptings we receive from the Holy Spirit. Verse 24 of 1 Nephi 15 promises us that if we will listen (hearken) to the word of God, and hold fast to what we are told, the power of the adversary to blind and overpower us will be prevented. If we never let go of the word of God, Satan cannot destroy us.
24 … whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the and the fiery of the overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
The scriptures refer to these negative influences from Satan as the mists of darkness (same as the fiery darts of the adversary) that blind people and cause them to let go of the word of God and be led away to wander into unknown paths. Remember that belief gives us the ability to resist Satan’s influences, but it takes strong testimony to eventually be victorious in the battle over what we finally choose to believe and remain faithful to. The more truth God reveals to us, the more we come to know for ourselves, and the more solid we become in our ability to remain faithful to the word of God.
Use art to help you cling to the word of God.
This is just a quick thought. When teaching a child about the gospel of Christ, involvement goes a long way in helping to cement what is taught. This involvement may be through puppet play, acting out scenarios, role plays, wall art, movies, drawing, etc. Anything that is visual, that excites the mind with visuals of the truth fall under this category. What works for a child also works for adults, though it becomes increasingly difficult to let go of formality as an adult and just play with abandon like a child.
The word of God is meant to be something that involves us. If we try to restrict the word of God to just mental exercises then we will miss the point of many doctrines that can only be learned well through experience with them. Ministering to others comes to mind. When we put a picture of a temple up in our bedroom or apartment/home, is it a sterile photo of a building, or have we sought for a photo of the temple with a family or couple we know who was just sealed for eternity? Pictures that come with a story are powerful. That subtle change alone in what we choose to look at can make a big difference in how often we look at that picture, and what we are moved upon to do because of that picture.
Choose well the images you surround yourself with and they will motivate you to greater acts of goodness. This surrounding process also involves the movies we choose to watch. Do you make sure to include some of the Church videos or those movies that motivate you to love and serve your neighbors? We don’t need to watch only these movies, but we do need to make sure we include a healthy number of them on our play lists. Art in all forms is a blessing in our lives precisely because it is so powerful an influence on our heart, mind, and soul.
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