God's image
Week 19 is scheduled for study May 6-12, 2024. There are several things at play here. How does being created in God’s image, and seeking His strength enable us to do what is needed?

A Point of Conjecture

Here is the question I have been pondering – Who was the king when Zeniff decided to return to the land of Lehi-Nephi, the land of their first inheritance? The scriptures don’t tell us, so this becomes a point of conjecture, of speculation. Here is my thinking.

The kings of the Nephites in question are Mosiah who was commanded by God in a dream to flee the land of Lehi-Nephi or be destroyed. He took all who would follow him and fled into the wilderness. Eventually they found the city of Zarahemla and the people of that city. Mosiah was made king after having taught the people his language and the gospel. Mosiah was succeeded by his son Benjamin. Benjamin was followed by his son named Mosiah. So Mosiah was named after his grandfather.

At some point during the reign of these three kings Zeniff took those who would follow him and returned to the land of their first inheritance. I think it was during the reign of the first king Mosiah. Here is why I believe this.

Mosiah, son of Benjamin, reigned for 33 years (Mosiah 29:46). He died within a year or two of the people’s return to Zarahemla that we are reading about in the chapters of this week’s lessons. We don’t know how long Mosiah’s father, Benjamin reigned, but we know he was old when he died. In Mosiah 29:45 we read that Alma the elder died the year before king Mosiah (the second) at the age of 82. Since Mosiah started his reign at the age of 30, and reigned for 33 years, that means Alma was about 19 years old when Benjamin’s son Mosiah was born. And Alma was at least second generation of those who went with Zeniff.

Zeniff was king for 20 plus years in the land of Lehi-Nephi before he died and his son Noah became king. Noah reigned for many years before Alma was converted through the preaching of Abinadi, and Alma spent a number of years under Lamanite oppression before being led back to the land of Zarahemla. This tells me that the chances are very good that Noah’s father, Zeniff probably left the Nephite’s to return to the land of their inheritance during the reign of the first Mosiah. In Mosiah 9:1 Zeniff says that he had a knowledge of the land of “our father’s first inheritance.” I’m guessing that Zeniff was probably born during Mosiah’s reign and was in that group that fled the land to keep from getting killed by the Lamanites. It was Zeniff and those who missed their old home and wanted to return that left Zarahemla and went back to where they came from.

Zeniff even admits that his move to return to the place the Lord had told them to flee from was ill advised. He says that he was over zealous and admits that it was a poor decision, because the king of the Lamanites only let them move back in so they could trap them into raising food for the Lamanites. The Lamanites were a lazy people, an indolent people. I noted that after the Lamanites moved into the cities vacated by Mosiah’s people they let the place go to ruin. The first thing Zeniff and his people had to do when they returned was to fix and rebuild the walls of the cities. They hadn’t been kept up by the Lamanites.

Like I said, this is all conjecture. Do you think it makes sense that Zeniff left during the reign of the first king Mosiah? There were three generations of Nephite kings – Mosiah, Benjamin, and Mosiah. And there there three generations of Nephite kings – Zeniff, Noah, and Limhi. I think the odds are pretty good that Zeniff left during Mosiah’s reign to claim his old home.

Day 1

Mosiah 7:14-33 – Jesus Christ has the power to deliver me.

Limhi and his people were in quite the pickle. They didn’t get themselves into the mess they were currently in – their ancestors did that. But even though they didn’t personally make the choices that made them slaves to the Lamanites, they still had to pay the price for the choices someone else made for them. By themselves they couldn’t get out of their current situation. They were surrounded by the armies of the Lamanites, and the taxation placed upon them by the King of the Lamanites was a full 50% of everything they produced. It’s rather difficult to get ahead in life with half of all you have being forcefully taken from you each year.

My point in reiterating this story from today’s verses is that each of us make choices that get us into binds in life. And often the bind we find ourselves in is not of our choosing. We are just living with the choices someone else made who came before us. Limhi and his people had to trust that it was possible for the Lord to deliver them from their current suffering. Theirs was a physical bondage. So often ours is an emotional bondage or a spiritual bondage.

Have we made a reputation for ourself that has pigeon holed us into a role in life from which no one wants to let us go? Have we developed habits that prevent us from moving forward in life, be it financially or socially? Are we spiritually in bondage to addictive habits such as porn or substances that hold us back from being free? There are so many ways in which we may find ourselves feeling trapped in life.

Like Limhi and his people, we all find ourselves at a point where we have to choose to place our faith in God that He can find a way to free us from whatever form of bondage we find ourselves trapped in. It doesn’t really matter how we got there. The fact is that we are there now, and that is our present concern. Living with the regret of how we arrived in our present condition, whether or not it was our doing, doesn’t help. Looking toward the Savior for help is the only thing that will be productive at this point. He is called our Savior for a reason. He is here to save us. The people of Limhi rejoiced in the coming of Ammon and his brethren, because they represented hope that there might be a way out now.

The scriptures are full of deliverance stories. Today’s verses are but one of so many available in all the books of scripture. Which story resonates with you? Which of all the stories of deliverance helps you to feel hope that God can do for you what He has done for so many others in so many other situations. Turning to God for help being delivered from your current situation will take every bit of faith and trust that it did for those in the scriptures, but when offered freely, our trust in God is never misplaced. It is always helpful and freeing in the end. Ponder the questions in the manual for today’s lesson. How do these questions apply to you in your personal situation? What role can the Savior play in your own deliverance?

Day 2

Mosiah 7:26-27 – I was created “after the image of God.”

Today’s verses only include verses 26 and 27. I think it is important to also include the beginning of verse 28. These verses are talking about the prophet Abinadi and king Noah who put him to death for what he taught them. It occurred to me that Abinadi’s message is one of hope and joy. Because we are made in God’s own image, because we are supposed to become like Him, Satan rails on anyone who teaches such messages of salvation and hope.

If being in God’s own image, because we are His children, was simply a fantasy then such thoughts hold no threat to Satan or anyone else. But if there is power in that knowledge, and that knowledge can lead us back to God and Christ then there is a real and present danger to Satan and his kind. Remember that we are still at war with Satan, that same war that was started with his rebellion from God’s plan for our salvation. That same rebellion got him and one third of our siblings cast out of heaven for eternity. Their hatred for us has not diminished. They, like Laman and Lemuel, feel like we have robbed them of what is rightfully theirs. And like Laman and Lemuel, theirs is an eternal hatred of those who didn’t give them what they felt they deserved.

If anything, all experience Satan’s hosts have had in dealing with mortals for the last many thousands of years has shown them the power that comes to people who turn to Christ and find hope in his work for our salvation. Those people are the living proof that God’s plan for our salvation is indeed valid, and the better way. Now they are just trying to do as much damage to us as they can out of spite and anger.

None of these doctrines we are discussing make any sense if you don’t first buy into the notion that we are all God’s children, that God presented us with a way for us to become exalted, as He is, and that those who chose another path were cast out of His presence down to the earth, and that they are allowed to have their way with us, under the limitations God placed on their abilities to harm us, until the judgment day. At that time they will be banished forever, and we won’t ever have to deal with them again! Our reward for remaining faithful through our time between leaving our Father’s home and the judgment day will earn us a reward of eternal joy and happiness with our family. Only a small percentage of all God’s children will have this privilege, because only a small percentage are willing to make the covenants and put in the work needed to honor being in God’s own image and being one of His children. That makes the doctrine of being in God’s own image a key to our faith in Christ and in our claim to being able to become like God one day.

Day 3

Mosiah 8:13-19 – The Lord provides prophets, seers, and revelators to benefit mankind.

Gratitude seems like such a simple thing, but it is really a difficult thing to both achieve and maintain. We have not just one prophet who gives us the words of God, but we have many of them. We have scriptures in so many places that they have become ubiquitous (universally available or present). When was the last time you either took your paper copy of the scriptures to church or saw someone else carry a set of scriptures into a meeting? Most people these days have them on their phones or tablets, so they no longer feel a need for the paper copy. I really miss that.

My point here is that we have so many blessings here in the last days that no one else in the history of the world could even imagine that it is difficult for us to be properly appreciative and grateful for what we have. In Mosiah’s day only the king had the actual Brass Plates to read and study. Everyone else had to hope they might one day see a copy to look at. But no one would ever have even hoped to possess their own copy of the scriptures. Printed books wouldn’t come along for more than a thousand years.

For us, the gospel of Christ is all around us. We have all these prophets, seers, and revelators who travel the earth testifying of Christ. We have televised general conferences of the church that we are able to see in our own homes at our own convenience. Even in the early days of the church, before radio and television, most people who couldn’t actually attend general conference had to wait months, if not years, before they ever heard about what happened in a particular conference talk. To attend conference and see the speakers deliver their address in person was, for many, a once in a lifetime experience.

The Lord is pouring out His blessings upon the people of the earth, and specifically they are being given to all the children on earth so that those of the covenant can be blessed and strengthened by the technologies God has revealed to everyone. All are blessed, but more specifically are those blessed who are covenant makers and keepers. Sometimes we need to just take a few minutes to count our blessings. Once we have identified them, look for the ways in which God’s gifts to all His children are of particular use to those who make covenants with Him. This should help each of us to be more grateful for the closer presence of God’s ordained representatives on the earth, His prophets, seers, and revelators. Truly their presence in our lives adds strength and endurance to our continuing resolve to be obedient to God’s commandments.

Day 4

Mosiah 9-10 – I can face my challenges “in the strength of the Lord.”

Today’s lesson has a lot to do with the first lesson for this week. The strength of the Lord is achieved in these chapters by remembering how God delivered His people from troubles they had in the past. All throughout the scriptures people are told to look back at God’s ability to deliver His people from their troubles. All they need to do is choose to believe that He can and will do the same for them in their current predicament.

In the Old Testament the children of Israel were in bondage many times. Each time it was because of their own disobedience to God. When they were finally submissive to God’s commandments once again, He delivered them from bondage. This was a repeating cycle. The story that best demonstrates the length God is willing to go to in order to save His people is the Moses story of delivering God’s people from Egypt. Time and again the people are told to remember the captivity of their forefathers. They were told this to encourage them to place their faith in an unchanging and ever-loving God. It was to help them believe that if God was willing to help their family in the past, surely He is still willing to help us in the present.

In case you have the thought that God hasn’t helped your family in the past, so why should you expect that help now, remember that when we are baptized we become a covenant making member of Abraham’s family, whether we are genetically a member of that family or are adopted. The blessings and promises are the same, for it is not so much lineage as it is willingness to be obedient that qualifies us for God’s blessings. God’s promise to Abraham was that through his family all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Obviously we can’t all be of the lineage of Abraham, but all the nations of the earth can be blessed by keeping the covenants brought by the lineage of Abraham and those others who have been brought into his family through covenant.

The strength of the Lord is in our gratitude and in our ability to acknowledge His power and desire to deliver us from any form of bondage or threat in our life. We are His children, and He fights for His obedient family members always. God’s covenant keeping children are always in the minority, so we will need to turn to God for help and support on a regular basis. If we were in the majority on earth there would be no cause for us to turn to God to save us from the evils brought upon us by others. So remember who God is to us, and remember who we are to God. God does not abandon His children. We may abandon Him, but if we call upon Him in faith, He will always provide us with strength beyond our own, and blessings beyond anything we could have hoped for.

Day 5

Mosiah 10:11-17 – My choices can influence generations.

I have met many older couples who have mourned because their children have abandoned the church and the teachings of our faith. Why is that? Often it is because the parents abandoned religion when they were young. As they grew older they were reconverted (or converted for the first time) and came back to church. The problem is they had already taught their children that the church was not important. Now that the parents have come back into activity and full fellowship, they can’t get their children to listen to them. And worse yet, their grandchildren are also being reared without the blessings of the gospel in their lives. These parents are filled with sorrow for how all this came about, but are very powerless to change things now.

If I am a believer, but don’t include my children in gospel talks, discussions, and demonstrations on a continual basis, why should I be surprised when the world teaches them that other things are more important? The world is not shy about sharing its feelings about how things are and should be. So why should I be shy about sharing my testimony with my own children? Every year they are in mortality from the age of one until they leave home, the parent’s influence on what they come to believe wanes and the world’s influence waxes.

When we send them to school at the tender age of five or six, hours a day are spent by them listening to the morals and values taught by the world. We can’t even trust that if we live in a largely LDS community that they are being taught actual truth, for the system itself discourages or forbids that truth from being taught. Every moment our children are at home must be a living laboratory of gospel living and gospel truths being demonstrated through service, attitudes, and love. If we don’t take such things seriously then we shouldn’t be so surprised when the teachings of the world claims them in their teen years when our children are seeking independence from their parents.

I highly recommend the talk given by Richard J. Maynes of the Seventy entitled “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home.”

Personal Study

Developing strength in the Lord, as opposed to having the strength of the Lord

This title may seem a little confusing. Hopefully I can demonstrate the difference between the two.

Developing strength in the Lord – When I exercise my faith in God through obedience to His commandments and I practice heavenly attributes and attitudes, I develop confidence and increase in my ability to do good. In priesthood terms this is the difference between having authority of God, because I am a priesthood bearer, and having power in the priesthood, because I am keeping the commandments and exercising my faith each day. Strength from the Lord comes into our lives only as we seek to become like Christ. Our obedience enables God to make us more able to do wonderful things in life, because we are trusting in Him and seeking ways to live our lives like Christ. We follow the promptings and admonitions we receive from the Holy Ghost. In exchange for our efforts God gives us of His own strength and abilities as we are able to receive them.

Having the strength of the Lord – There are many things we simply cannot do for ourselves, no matter how obedient we are. We can’t raise the dead on our own, we can’t heal the sick on our own, we can’t get ourselves out of the bondages we find ourselves in, etc. There are always ways and situations where our own abilities are simply not enough. That’s life. In all of these cases we turn to God and ask for Him to use His strength to help us. As much as He strengthens us each day, there will always be those times in our life when we must rely solely on the strength that only God possesses.

God has promised us that His strength is at our disposal when we are obedient to His commandments and seek to do His will. When Moses exercised his faith and raised his staff, fully believing that what he had been commanded to do would happen, it was God (not Moses) that actually parted the waters of the Red Sea. As I think of it, most of the time God’s power and strength are demonstrated it is because His children have exercised the power He has already given them as they exercise their faith in Him. He delights in honoring His obedient children. Obedient, covenant keeping children should always expect God to intervene in their lives when they have done all they could do and have reached the place where only God can make the difference. As strong as we hope to become, in this life we must, in the end, recognize that it is God’s personal strength that gets us through it all.

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BoM19-2024 – In the Strength of the Lord