the way
Week 12 is scheduled for study March 18-24, 2024. The Book of Mormon leads the way to show us how to obtain eternal life. This week’s lessons focus on how to approach that way.

Day 1

2 Nephi 31 – Jesus Christ and His doctrine are the only way to eternal life.

Let’s take a quick sidestep that will lead us back into today’s topic. I’d like to start by talking about idols and idol worship. By definition, idols are man made creations that people revere or worship, meaning they are the focal point of their life. An idol can be Biblical in nature, meaning something that is carved out of stone, wood, or made from any material. An idol represents something to the worshipper. In modern terms, if an idol is a sports team then our life is more or less centered on the performance of that team. Our identity is often wrapped up in how they perform. If they do well then we think well of our self. If they do poorly then we feel negatively about our self.

Idols often have lots of trappings to make them look impressive. In many countries their idols have enormous statues made to represent their god. Note that all gods are with a lowercase letter g. Only God, our eternal Father is with an uppercase G. That and the other members of the Godhead. Idols never merit the designation of God, only god.

Idols can’t do anything. Since they are created by man, only man can give them any meaning or significance in our lives. They are only an object if they don’t have someone to give them meaning. Some idols have whole pageants and celebrations devoted to their worship. Some idols even have lore about how they came to be anciently, as though they are real beings. But the purpose behind all idols is to give people a sense of purpose and well being. We seem to need to have something in our lives that is bigger and more powerful than we are. Again, it is important to remember that idols can do nothing of themselves, because there is no life in an idol, only the meaning people give it. It doesn’t matter how impressive the story is about an idol’s power, creation, or past. When all is said and done an idol is just a piece of furniture or a good idea. Idols simply don’t exist, except in the mind.

This brings us back to Jesus Christ and his being the only way back to God. God is an eternal being. He is powerful, so much so that we can’t comprehend anything He cannot do. Note that He is a person, and is our Father. Humans are His children. We were sent here as part of our education and progression towards becoming like our Parents. But we don’t of ourselves know how to get back home. We don’t have the power needed to pay the price and satisfy all of God’s laws to get ourselves back where we came from. For this reason our Father in Heaven gave us a Savior, who is someone who saves. His name on earth was Jesus. Jesus was the only one of God’s children chosen to pay for our disobedience and take our punishment so that all of God’s laws are satisfied, allowing us to return home to His presence.

Part of Jesus the Christ’s responsibilities while on earth was to pay this eternal price. It required that he suffer and die for us, so he could be resurrected – brought back from the dead – opening the door for all of us to also be saved from death. Note that both God and Christ are people to whom we are physically related. I say physically not like you are related to your sister or brother, but we were all brothers and sisters in the spirit world before we came here, so in that sense we are all still related. And the fact that we all came from the same original parents in mortality (Adam and Eve) also still makes us brothers and sisters. Jesus is the only mortal “step child” we have, since his mortal mother was one of us, but his Father was God, Himself.

God gave us Jesus, His special Son, because he is the only one of all God’s children who has been anointed through the priesthood of God to provide us with the saving ordinances that can get us back home to God. Christ and Messiah mean the same thing, but in two languages. Both of them mean “the anointed one.” Christ is the one selected by God to enact His plan for our salvation.

Did you ever hear God tell anyone that there was a second option to returning home to God? I’ve never once heard that a man made idol could exalt us, or resurrect us, or save us in the eternities. Idols are all about the here and now. Christ is all about our future in the eternities, which we prepare for in the here and now. Idols are in satan’s domain, who also has no power over us in the eternities, only in the here and now. All things that come from God not only bless our lives in the present, but give us hope for the future in our life after this one. Obedience to Christ’s teachings, his doctrine, is in all reality our one and only way back to live with God. Nothing made by man can do that.

Day 2

2 Nephi 31:4-13 – Jesus Christ set the perfect example of obedience when He was baptized.

The priesthood is the embodiment of God’s authority and power. Through His priesthood God governs all things. Without the priesthood in our lives, nothing we do can be recognized as officially from God. How the priesthood is given and passed on, how it is exercised, and its uses, are all decided upon by God, Himself. We have no power in and of ourselves. When we do something and a miracle happens it is because we used God’s priesthood power, through our faith and obedience to His commandments to make it happen.

This concept of priesthood and ordinances of the priesthood is an important one. Baptism is the first ordinance of the gospel, the good news that Jesus declared to us. It is the gateway back to God. All of us can live our lives without the priesthood and its ordinances, but none of us will return to live with God again without His priesthood ordinances being performed in our lives by authorized representatives. This is why baptism is so important. This covenant we make to follow Jesus in all things is our contract and statement declaring that we want to be obedient to God for the rest of our life. Baptism isn’t just a statement, but a binding eternal contract given to us from God as His way of helping us come home.

Jesus was perfect, but that didn’t mean he was exempt from God’s requirements that the rest of us have to answer to. Even Christ, the creator of the universe was required by God to do everything the rest of us have to do to return home. After all, his duty was to show us the way home, and that way begins with baptism. So even in his already perfect state, he showed us that even he is not above the law. So he submitted himself to God’s law and covenanted with God through his baptism that He would obey God in all things. He did, and so must we.

Day 3

2 Nephi 31:15-20 – “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”

I want to admit that this passage of scripture surprised me, but it is happening so often on this reading of the Book of Mormon that I would spend most of my time writing these comments admitting that I had just learned something new, yet again!

15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

There you have it. Our Father, Himself states that there are only a limited number of things for which we will ultimately be held accountable for if we are to return to Him. He summarizes them by saying that the “words of my Beloved are true and faithful.” Those of us who accept the words of Christ and endure (meaning to continue in those words) until death “shall be saved.”

16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

Verse 17 is so cool! Nephi was shown the life and practices of Jesus in vision, so he would understand the importance of baptism and following the Holy Ghost. We enter the gate back to God by exercising faith that leads us to repent of our sins. Our repentance cannot save us without the ordinance of salvation we receive from Christ in being baptized and making our first covenant with God. When we make this covenant and receive the presence of the Holy Ghost in our life then we are cleansed from our sins and the Holy Ghost begins the work of changing our heart to be more obedient and opening our mind, so we can understand spiritual things. These are the steps: faith, repentance, baptism (covenant making), and following the Holy Ghost. Only four things to do in governing our life.

18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

I like that Nephi refers to doing these four things as a “strait and narrow path.” A strait is a narrow way. It doesn’t have much wiggle room that would allow the person to move from side to side. Ever heard of the Straits of Gibraltar? The strait is the narrow passage leading from the Atlantic ocean into the Mediterranean. It is not a wide opening, that is why it is called a strait. So to say “strait and narrow” is redundant, repetitive.

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

We enter this strait and narrow path by faith in Christ. That is the beginning. Now, for the rest of our lives our responsibility is to repeat these four steps. Each day we need to exercise faith in what Christ teaches us, meaning we need to go and do what he teaches. Faith isn’t faith without action. It isn’t enough just to believe. We must go and do. That is faith.

Second is repentance. This is a continual cycle. Since we never reach the need to stop changing and recommitting ourselves to following Christ, repentance needs to be daily.

Thirdly is baptism. Covenants are a crucial part of our spiritual journey back to God, our Father. We are only baptized once, but we renew that covenant each week when we partake of the sacrament. We also need to remember Jesus each day of our lives and keep in mind how important it is to follow him in all things.

Finally, by receiving the Holy Ghost we change into better versions of ourselves. Our hearts are softened, become more humble, teachable, and our minds open to the things of the eternities. We come to understand the meaning of compassion, love, charity, service, and so much more. These things happen as we are out there “doing” what we claim to believe. This is the exercising of our faith.

So these four things are all God really wants from us in this life. Have faith in Christ, do his will, make and keep priesthood covenants, and seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I don’t see any other options being thrown into the mix. This really is a strait and narrow course, and is the doctrine of Christ. It is upon these four things that we will be judged at the last day.

Day 4

2 Nephi 32; 33:2 – Through the words of Christ and the Holy Ghost, God will show me what to do.

I don’t know how to address today’s topic except by speaking from my own experience with the Spirit. As humble as that exposure to Him may be, it has been enough to change my life.

When we are new to having the Holy Spirit in our life any influence from Him has an impact. Think back on how new investigators react when the missionaries bear testimony of the Restoration and of Christ. For many of them, the experience is so moving that all they can do is sit and listen while tears run down their face. Never in their life have they felt like this before. It is an experience that is completely new to them and they don’t really know what to make of it. All they know is that it was sweet and wonderful. But what happens after the missionaries have left their home?

For most of us, when we have lost the influence of the Spirit we can feel a little abandoned. There is great security and peace of soul when He is in our life. It is when the missionaries have left that Satan has a chance to move in and start planting doubts, encouraging them to talk to their “friends” who know all about those Latter-day Saints. The battle for our soul has commenced in earnest. This is why it is so important that the missionaries keep in frequent contact with new investigators. They bring the Spirit with them into the homes they visit (ours included). Until those people make a covenant with God to follow Christ to the end of their days, the Spirit will be only an occasional visitor. He becomes a permanent guest in their lives only after the covenant is made through proper priesthood authority.

Once we are exposed to the influence of the Spirit, His presence usually feels strong, because it is new to us. The longer we are around and in places where we experience Him, the more accustomed to His presence we become. Over time how the Spirit speaks to us changes and becomes more subtle. At first He may have to do a little shouting and demonstrating so that we get used to knowing when He is there. As we choose to act on what we feel (and noting our feelings is the key here), we eventually have more heightened senses when it comes to spiritual things and He can speak more quietly to our soul, but with the same effect.

Most who have been in the Church for years don’t even realize when the Spirit is present in their daily life. They are so accustomed to Him being in their life that Him being there is the norm. It is His absence that now becomes distressing, leaving us feeling hollow and alone, confused and troubled. How do we make sure that we invite Him back into our life? How do we “receive the Holy Ghost”? The answer is to read the scriptures.

When we study the scriptures, not for the story, but for the doctrine, the teachings of Christ as told to us by the various prophets who have written about them become our security blanket. Constant contact with the things of eternity, the messages of hope and life, the lifting influence of the Spirit that is found within the pages of Christ’s scriptures, are what tell the Spirit we want Him to teach us. Our attitude when we approach the reading of our scriptures is so important. Our humble approach to deity is a pleading voice for Him to come and teach us. We can also pray directly for that very thing to happen. Don’t ever be embarrassed to openly plead for the Spirit to come into your home and your life to teach you. That is His role in the Godhead after all.

I have found that the more I read the scriptures for the joy of learning of Christ and the gospel he brings, the more I begin to recognize the presence of the Spirit in my life. What I used to call coincidence begins to be seen as providential happenings. I see the Lord’s hand in more things around me. There is no such thing as coincidence. All things with the Spirit are governed and brought about by divine design.

As a personal example, in my writing about gospel-related things, sometimes I will get a sudden urge to write on a subject that fills my mind. I can’t sleep until it is on paper. Immediately thereafter it leaves my mind and I can’t remember it any more. Time goes on and a few years later when I am posting archived articles, it “just so happens” that on that week it is the turn to post that article that consumed my mind all those years ago. So I post it, not thinking anything of it, but I get responses back from readers that it was positively providential that the subject of that article came at just the right time, for it was troubling their soul and they found some answers in what I wrote. This has happened to me over and over again. The miracle of good timing was years in the making.

Whereas I am pleased that someone had a good experience with what I wrote, I can’t take any credit for it. It was written not by me, but through the influence of the Spirit. I was just in the right place doing the right thing at the right time. This is what it is like to immerse oneself in the study of the scriptures. After a time of consistent study, which means studying with purpose and intent, not just to read the words, the Spirit causes changes to happen in our life that bring about moments of happiness that cannot come any other way. These moments increase in number and intensity over time. There really is power in seeking the Spirit’s guiding influence in the words of Christ, the holy scriptures. I don’t know why or how this combination works, I only know that it does.

Day 5

2 Nephi 33 – The Book of Mormon persuades us all to believe in Christ.

In my mind, the key to today’s topic is found in the first verse of 2 Nephi 33.

And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.

Some people, as recorded in scripture are more powerful in writing than in speaking. Others are more powerful in speaking than in writing. What do both of these people have in common? It is the Holy Ghost in both cases. He bridges the gap and fills the void between our efforts (writing or speaking) and provides the converting experience. So whether we are being converted, enlightened, seeing visions, being comforted, etc., the Spirit is what causes all that to happen in our life.

Nephi tells us plainly that he has done his best to write in such a way that we will understand and accept his words about the importance and wonder that is Christ. But he admits that it is the Spirit that accompanies his written words that will carry “it unto the hearts of the children of men.” The Lord has granted the record of His prophets’ writings in the Book of Mormon with a wonderful endowment of the Spirit. This allows Him to speak to the hearts of those who read with true intent to learn. I would say “pure intent”, but I have felt the power of the Book of Mormon while still questioning my own purity of heart.

The Lord took more than a thousand years to assemble the writings for the Book of Mormon. It’s purpose is to testify of His only Begotten Son. He has imbued the book with a power that is not found in this intensity in any other book of scripture. The Book of Mormon is meant to be foundation of our spiritual lives in the latter days. It adds its witness to that of the Bible to put down contention and doubt, it gives us missing doctrine lost from other scriptures, and shows us how powerful the purer word of God can be. I can’t wait to see what will be revealed in the millennium! In the meantime we should all make good use of the special converting power of the Book of Mormon. It is the key to spreading the gospel of Christ in the latter-days.

Personal Study

Feast upon the words of Christ

In 1 Nephi 19:23 Nephi says, “… I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” This act of learning how to apply what was written long ago by prophets in a different place, in our life today, opens doors and windows of understanding that we won’t experience in any other way. We need to be taking what is already written down and finding ways to apply those teachings to what is happening today.

Sometimes the scriptures may feel a little foreign or disconnected from our current life experience. But we need to remember that what has been written by the prophets were not meant for just those people. Their writings are filled with the principles and teachings that are eternal in nature. It is our responsibility to seek to understand what those eternal principles are. Only then can we apply them in what we are going through today. Mankind hasn’t changed from one creature to another kind of creature in the last number of millennia. People are still people, all of us are still children of God, brothers and sisters sharing the mortal experience.

As different as our individual experiences may be in this life, the scriptures we are given by God are sufficient to teach us the way back to Him. If we seek knowledge and understanding through our association with the Holy Spirit, we can be shown what needs to be done in our life to bring us happiness.

The question here is how much of this searching business is enough? The manual makes this great point.

As you ponder Nephi’s counsel, think about how you study the Savior’s words. Would you describe it as snacking, eating, or feasting?

We all know the difference between just a snack and eating a feast. How are you approaching your scripture time? Do you pick through the verses as someone who refuses to eat their carrots? Or do you sit down to read the scriptures with the hunger for knowledge and guidance as a person does who is starved for physical food attacks a table loaded with delicacies? As I mentioned before, our attitude makes all the difference in what we get out of our scripture studies.

Remember that our first attempts at changing our attitude will most likely be met with frustration or failure. Learning how to feast on spiritual food takes practice and time, combined with faith. I mean by that that our lives have to reflect through our actions each day what we already have learned from studying the scriptures before the Lord will reveal more. We are held accountable for anything that we learn, so learn to live what you already know, so that the new knowledge can flow more easily. Once the Lord sees that you are earnest in your desire to have more, more will be freely given. Patience is a key to this process.

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BoM12-2024 – This Is the Way