plan of our God
Week 08 is scheduled for study Feb. 19-25, 2024. The plan of our God for our salvation is made so that all things are possible for us to accomplish. Joy is the pathway back to His presence.

Day 1

2 Nephi 6-8 – The Lord is merciful to His people and will fulfill His covenants.

The premiss of Jacob’s sermon to the Nephites is that they were feeling more or less abandoned as supposed “children of Israel.” None of the children born in the wilderness or in the Promised Land knew anything of Jerusalem. They were completely ignorant (by design) of the ways of the Jews in Jerusalem, because Nephi didn’t want them to think like those wicked people. Nephi had wanted to point his people to Christ. As a result, they lived the law of Moses, but were told that it was only a formality until the Savior came and replaced it with a higher law. But that would not happen in their lifetime, but hundreds of years in their future.

The Nephites lived in a land without anything to connect them to their past or their heritage, except their scriptures. That is really all they had from the old world and the old way of life. Is it any wonder they felt like step children in the family of Israel? There may have been other cultures around them, as some of speculated, but we don’t have even the slightest hint of any other societies for them to associate with by what we read in the actual Book of Mormon. The scriptures paint a picture of them being completely by themselves. And half of the family (the Lamanites) wanted to kill them. This was not exactly the most convincing living situation for them to believe they were included in all the promises and blessings as God’s covenant people.

In many ways we are in the same boat as Jacob’s audience. Most of us have been adopted into the house of Israel through baptism, or were baptized and only years later find that genetically we are of one of the tribes of Israel, but we have no physical or social connection to that tribe. All we have are the scriptures and the promises of the prophets. As I see it, both Jacob’s people and all of us have the same challenge – how do we feel included in the house of Israel? How do we come to feel like we belong to the promises made by God to Abraham’s seed?

I see only one way for either group to begin to feel at home as one of God’s people – choose to believe. We have all had some form of spiritual experience or experiences to confirm that the scriptures are true, that Joseph Smith was telling the truth, and that our living prophet really does speak for the Lord. But do we believe and accept that along with what we have been told by the Spirit about the truthfulness of the gospel of Christ we must also accept that we are Abraham’s posterity, and hence will inherit all the blessings promised by God to Abraham’s family?

Jacob read his people the words of Isaiah, because Isaiah focused heavily on the future of Israel. Much of his writings begin with their punishments because of their current disobedience in his day, but his sermons all circle back to the blessings Israel will receive because of God’s love for them. Isaiah speaks often and specifically of Christ and his mission, his suffering on our behalf, and how faithful the Savior will be, is, and always will be on his part to the covenants we make with God, our Father. The whole point of having a Christ in the first place was to make it possible for all of God’s plans for the exaltation of His children to come to pass. The ability and certainty of the Savior’s faithfulness and love for us had to be a given from start to finish. Here is the first half of 2 Nephi 6:5.

And now, the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. …

Believe the words of Isaiah. Believe the words of Jacob. Both of them speak of God’s faithfulness to each of us. All the members of the Lord’s earthly kingdom are part of the family of Abraham, whether by blood or adoption, the promises for obedience to the commandments are the same. Choose to believe then exercise faith in that belief and live your life with the expectation of receiving those blessings. Search them out and glory in the promises made by all the prophets to God’s covenant people, for you are one of them. Jacob’s people still had to wait many hundreds of years before the Savior would come and give them the higher law. We live in the day when we not only enjoy that higher law, but the long awaited gathering of Israel has already begun, and we are blessed to be part of that gathering process.

Day 2

2 Nephi 9:1-26 – Jesus Christ saves me from sin and death.

Here is an article that talks at length about today’s topic – Why We Need the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Everything in today’s lesson is spelled out within the article. And the article even refers you to yet another article for further reading that might be useful to you. Happy reading!

Day 3

2 Nephi 9:7 – The Savior’s Atonement is infinite.

When I asked my mother once why the payment for our sins in the atonement had to be infinite, her answer surprised me. Consider this – an infinite payment lasts forever, right? If Christ’s payment wasn’t infinite then at some point his payment would expire or come to an end. Coming to an end means it would have to be paid for yet again. The payment for our sins would have to be repeatedly made for all of eternity, because the payment would keep expiring. Only a payment that is infinite will last forever.

I believe I can safely say that none of us in mortality have any clue as to what kind of payment would have to be made that would last forever, and still cover so many people. Remember that Jesus paid for all of our sins, both yours and mine. His payment covered every soul to ever live, whether in the Church or outside of it. Because we still have to pay for our personal sins, we must rely on his ability to pay for our sins in such a way that we won’t ever have to worry about our sins being called into question down the road. We still pray to God and ask for forgiveness from Him, because the laws we break are His laws. We are forgiven only because Jesus acts as our intercessor and pleads with God to forgive us when we repent for his (Christ’s) sake. Why for Christ’s sake? Because he is the only one who is worthy of forgiveness because he never broke a law. So God forgives us for the sake of His only perfect son who has already suffered and paid for our sins, and is pleading with God in our behalf.

The catch is that Jesus paid the price for our sins, but we still need to pay all that we can. He is willing to personally forgive our sins, but only if we show him we love him enough to keep his commandments and accept the happy lifestyle his way of living creates. It pleases Jesus when we humble ourselves and go to the Father in prayer and plead for His forgiveness. When we do this Jesus intervenes in our behalf and asks the father to forgive us, since he has already paid the eternal price for that sin. For His perfect Son’s sake, God agrees and we are forgiven of that sin.

We don’t know how the making of a payment for sin can be infinite in its duration and scope. We take it on faith that only Jesus could and did make it happen. That he did this for each and every one of us is just one of the ways we exercise our faith in Christ.

Day 4

2 Nephi 9:27-54 – I can come unto Christ and follow God’s plan.

Today’s lesson is one of self inspection and contemplation. The manual challenges us to look at our own allegiances and determine what might need to be done to avoid any punishments that could be looming because of them and how to change them to opportunities for the Lord’s mercy to bless us. I wrote an article a while back entitled The 10 Woes of Jacob, and How to Avoid Them. After you read today’s verses, I recommend going through this article to see if you agree with what each of Jacob’s woes say.

The point of Jacob’s woes is to let people know that doing anything on his “woe” list will bring heartache and sorrow, while repenting and turning to the Lord, which we all can do, brings happiness and peace. The only way to tell if that is true is to pick a woe for which you may need to improve and take it to the Lord for help in getting rid of it in your life altogether. Once you have experienced a change of heart with that one thing, note how your life has changed or in how you now feel. Remember, if you find that the Lord’s promises don’t pan out you can always go back to your old behavior. I haven’t ever seen His promises not come to pass when I do what I am supposed to do, but we each have to come to that knowledge ourselves. After all, God does tell us to prove Him. So do it. See what happens.

Day 5

2 Nephi 10:20, 23-25 – The sacrifice of Jesus Christ can bring me joy.

I was reading the talk referenced in the manual by D. Todd Christofferson, “The Joy of the Saints.” Suddenly I was disturbed by the word “joy.” Since the subject of joy is the point and purpose of his talk I had to stop and think about why I was bothered by it. After a moment or two of piecing things together in my own mind, I realized my definition of the word was wrong.

When I was thinking of joy I could have easily substituted the words deliriously happy, ecstatic, blissfully happy. When I can’t pay my rent or make my house payment, my car just got run into, I’m having marital difficulties, or my dog just died, joy is not the word I would use to describe my life as a Christian. So joy must mean something else.

What I need is a way to describe the joy of discipleship that can be true in almost any situation I might ever face. I think that the joy referred to by the prophets isn’t just one kind of emotion, but a mix of feelings that propels us onward and upward. Even in dire circumstances I can have a hope in my future, a hope in my salvation, and a hope in my God that supports me and keeps me optimistic.

During those days when I have lost everything, my car, my job, my family member, my pet, whatever it may be, my heart can still be full of gratitude to my God for the knowledge He has given me, the happiness I find in His promises for the next life, and for the ability I have to be forgiven for my sins in this life. When I am forgiven for a sin I have solid proof in front of me that I can indeed become a better version of me. This gratitude can give me peace in even the most awful turmoil and dire situations. The peace Christ offers to those who keep his commandments brings a type of serenity, a peace that surpasses anything the non Christian mind can understand.

Combine hope, optimism, gratitude, happiness, forgiveness of sin, and inner peace, and what else can I call those things if not joy? A life filled with these emotions brings with it a sense of fulfillment and security that exists above all the daily trials of my life. It gives me purpose when all else seems pointless, and comforts me when loss would otherwise overwhelm me. None of this is possible without Christ’s Atonement for my sins.

Personal Study

Teach truth with stories and examples

I have always marveled at the number of stories and examples of spiritual things our leaders have to share with us in Conferences. It seems like God purposefully sends them these amazing experiences so they can share them with us when they teach us the principles of the gospel in meaningful ways. I was frankly jealous. I didn’t have those kinds of experiences. My life seemed bereft of great interactions with others that I could use as examples in teaching. What was wrong with me that I didn’t have such opportunities? (Poor pitiful me.)

After emerging from my personal pity party, I figured that if it was experiences I wanted then what were the Church leaders doing that I wasn’t? The answer was embarrassing. They were constantly out serving other people. It was in the course of their duties as servants of God that God lead them to these amazing experiences we keep hearing about in their talks. What was I doing to serve others that might bring those same kinds of experiences? I don’t have a high church calling, but that doesn’t mean I can’t serve like a true undershepherd in the calling I already have.

I decided that what I needed was to deliberately ask God in prayer to open the way for me to have these special kinds of experiences. This means I had to go out and involve myself in the lives of others through service of my own choice. I had to be looking for ways to be useful and loving to others, whether or not it was convenient to myself. Those opportunities are all around us when we are willing to open ourselves to them. As it happened in the course of my trying to be more involved in the lives of others to help my own prayer come to pass, I heard of a woman named Dorothy. She lives in the same retirement center as my mother, and my mom was helping to teach her the gospel with the missionaries.

Dorothy wanted to be baptized, but at 99 years old she was somewhat forgetful. The Sister missionaries, not understanding what it is like to be elderly, assumed she was incapable of making a sound choice to be baptized and had written her off as one unaccountable in this life for baptism. I am not in any way responsible for Dorothy, but I do understand what it is like to be getting old. I recognized that she had the best of intentions, and it was only her age that prevented her from remembering everything the missionaries were teaching her. I got involved. I even went to the Mission President and pled her case and begging him to come and meet Dorothy and see for himself.

Long story short, my wife and I were able to attend Dorothy’s baptism. The Relief Society room was filled with the elderly from her retirement center who came to support her. The missionaries were there, as was the Mission President and his good wife. Five men carried Dorothy, in her wheelchair, down into the water. Three men pulled her chair out from underneath her while the other two held her up. The prayer was said and all five of them helped to submerge her in the water then got her chair underneath her again. Then all five of them carried her up the stairs out of the font. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. The Spirit was palpable as they confirmed her a member of the church. Now, each time I go to visit my mom I get to greet Dorothy, who always wears a big grin on her face.

I finally received my own story. Not because I accidentally tripped over it, but because I prayed for it then went out looking for ways to serve selflessly. That was the hard part. The Lord was gracious and allowed me to become part of Dorothy’s conversion story. My joy is great over this one soul I was able to have a tiny part in helping into the church. I have discovered that service to others truly does bring a joy that is lasting, and I gaining experiences I can now use in my own teaching.

Click the link below to

print a PDF copy of the article.

BoM08-2024 – O How Great the Plan of Our God