prepare a way
Scheduled for study Jan. 27 – Feb. 2, 2020. Does the Lord always prepare a way for us to accomplish His work? Yes. Do we always feel like He remembers us and our needs? No. Does He ever actually forget us or abandon us? No, never. This week we look at our perspectives in doing the Lord’s work.

Day 1

1 Nephi 16-18 – When I keep the commandments, God will help me face challenges.

As you study 1 Nephi 16-20, look for passages that impress you. Some people like to highlight such verses in their scriptures; others write notes in the margins. Consider how you will record the impressions you receive.

When do we have legitimate cause to complain because of our afflictions and trials in this life? The answer is simple – only when we forget that this life is a temporary test that lasts but a blink of the eye in an eternal existence. If we forget that mortality is supposed to be a series of tests of our character to help us learn to always choose God above all else then it can be easy to see why those who are suffering complain and moan that life isn’t fair. It isn’t. It isn’t supposed to be. If we are tricked into thinking that our time in mortality is all there is to our existence then we have good reason to feel sorry for ourselves when things go wrong.

This is one of the great lies of our time in mortality, that our time in mortality is the sum of all our being. Once our time here is up we slip into nothingness and cease to exist. If we believe that then we have good cause to feel resentment and sorrow at trials and tribulations, for immediate comfort and pleasure is all we have available to us to comfort us. But when we remember that we are but wayfarers here – just passing through – we can more easily believe that each difficulty we encounter in life is but a test of character to help us remember to always choose the right and to look to God for help and direction.

Have you ever wondered how Nephi was able to keep his annoyingly optimistic attitude? He was roughly bound with chords to the mast of the ship during a vicious storm at sea for multiple days and left to die. He had bodily needs that demanded attention, possible sea sickness to deal with, and great hunger, no doubt. Anyone who even spoke in his favor was threatened. Yet during all these trials, which included his cut and swollen wrists and feet, his aching back (from being tied to a pole), he did not complain or accuse God for abandoning him, for allowing this injustice to take place, nor did he ask God to take retribution on his wicked brothers for what they had done to him. All of these reactions would have been considered normal behavior under these circumstances. But not for Nephi. Instead he praised God day and night and counted his blessings and thanked the Lord.

Nephi kept his perspective. You might say that he refused to believe his own eyes. To anyone else who experienced what he did, they would have seen a pretty hopeless situation. Why? Because they would have only seen what was right in front of them, the binding, the present pains and discomforts, the sense of abandonment and betrayal by family members. These things have a way of driving all other perspectives out of our head and making us see only what hurts most at the moment. But Nephi kept his focus on God and His promises to Nephi. He had been promised that he would be taken to a promised land. He had been shown his posterity in a vision. He knew that even if he, personally, didn’t make it to the new land, his children would make it there. These kinds of things helped him look beyond his present hurt to the promises the Lord made to him about his family and posterity. So he focused on his gratitude and the goodness of the Lord.

Nephi understood that this life isn’t about our personal comfort and ease. Unlike his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, Nephi recognized that each trial was another test of his character. He was determined to choose God and goodness always, because he had his eye always on the eternal reward, not any earthly outcome.

When we face our personal challenges, it can be easy to forget the end game, the big picture. When we hurt it is often only the hurt that has our attention, not what that hurt is able to teach us about ourselves. To learn to see beyond our current trial takes commitment to the Lord, and especially attention to His promises to us that all will be made well with us in the end. Even Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail was told that all he was being required to go through was for his own good and his own growth. Job, in the Old Testament was blessed because despite his personal pain and loss, he looked forward to his ultimate reward of standing in his flesh before God clean and free from sin, and being acceptable to his maker.

Day 2

1 Nephi 16:10–16, 23–31; 18:11-22 – The Lord guides me through small and simple means.

As you study 1 Nephi 16-20, look for passages that impress you. Some people like to highlight such verses in their scriptures; others write notes in the margins. Consider how you will record the impressions you receive.

Technology is something with which we are all intimately familiar. Lehi’s family wasn’t acquainted with advanced technology, so when they received the Liahona it was a marvel to them. We might think, “So they had a device with GPS and texting capabilities, what’s the big deal?” Remember that these people technically still lived in the iron age. Steel, as we know it today, hadn’t even been invented yet. Even steel was a new and developing technology in their day. The Lord could have shown Lehi in visions where to go and tell him what to do, but instead He gave him a little device that gave them up-to-date information based on their faith and diligence to the commandments. It wasn’t powered by electricity, but by faith and obedience! That is a far cry from anything we can produce even today.

Have you ever noticed that “things” have a way of working out in such an amazingly coincidental way? One day when a need arises everything just seems to fall into place and everything just works out. Don’t think that it is coincidental that this happens. The Lord knows our needs long before we are even born. He plants a thought, causes a plant to grow just so, changes a breeze to head in another direction than what is normal; in short, he does a million little things like this that set in motion other things that change the course of our lives so that everything “coincidentally” works out.

How England was conquered by a change in the weather

I’d like to give you a little example of how something very small brought about a very big change. England is an island just above France. The channel that separates England from France was always dangerous to cross, because of the choppy water and winds that could capsize the boats. During certain months of the year the winds always blow from the north to the south. During the other half of the year they reverse themselves and blow from France up toward England.  To sail against the winds was almost impossible, because all their ships relied on the wind to carry them where they wanted to go. So if a boat wanted to go from France to England it could only do so during the months when the winds were in their favor.

In 1066 the king of England died. He had promised his relative in France his throne, but Harold, his other relative, took the throne instead. There was nothing William of Normandy could do about it, because the winds were against him. He assembled his army anyway and built an invading fleet that then had to just sit in their docks waiting for the time of year when the winds would change. In the meantime an army from Norway decided to attack England. The terrible battle that ensued completely depleted the English army in their successful efforts to repel the invaders. The bodies were so thick in the swamp that you could walk across the swamp on the bodies of the dead.

The king had only been back home for a week, and had sent all the serfs back home to finish their harvests when there was a sudden and unexplained switch in the winds. Suddenly, those winds that absolutely, for centuries, had always blown at this time of year from England south to France, started blowing from France up to England. William seized this opportunity to load his army and set sail before the winds went back to normal. They landed in England and engaged the king before he had time to call back all the serfs in the kingdom for this new invasion. And so, because of an unexplained change in the direction of the wind, William of Normandy conquered England in 1066. This changed the course of the whole country and shaped the direction of the English language into what it is today.

How often have you received a small impression to stop the car or to go down a different street, to call someone – seemingly without cause, or any one of a thousand other little things? These are the things the Lord uses to shape our lives, build our faith, and to bless us for our obedience. There is no such thing as coincidence. The Lord is in charge of all things. His will for something to happen is always completed, whether we like it or not. It is better for us to cooperate and to seek to understand His will and to assist in His work than it is for us to resist Him and fight Him with our disobedience. The Lord only employes big events when big events are needed, otherwise He uses these small and simple things to shape and to bring about His will in all things.

Day 3

1 Nephi 19:23–24; 20-22 – I can “liken all scriptures” to myself.

As you study 1 Nephi 16-20, look for passages that impress you. Some people like to highlight such verses in their scriptures; others write notes in the margins. Consider how you will record the impressions you receive.

One of the great mistakes of every generation is to accept the misconception that the scriptures are only about “those people.” By believing the scriptures are not written for, and about us, we miss many of the lessons the scriptures try to teach. Tomorrow’s lesson talks about who the gentiles and the house of Israel are. I recommend reading tomorrow’s lesson today and then discussing today’s lesson tomorrow. It is crucial that we understand who the gentiles and the Israelites are if we are to learn the lessons Nephi refers to in these verses.

In the scriptures there are only two groups of people ever talked about, those with whom the Lord has made covenants (the house of Israel) and those with whom the Lord has not made covenants (the gentiles). The exceptions to this statement are found in the Day 4 lesson. How do we go about likening the scriptures unto ourselves? In other words, how do we put ourselves into the references made in the scriptures so we can take what they teach us personally, and apply their lessons in our lives?

Since the Lord is only differentiating between those who make covenants with Him and those who do not, it doesn’t really matter what period in history we live. If we have made covenants with God then anytime the word Israel is mentioned in the scriptures, our ears should perk up, for that verse refers to either us or those like us who lived in the past. And sometimes those verses refer to our descendents who will make covenants with the Lord.

What we need to learn to see in the scriptures is our Father’s relationship, and our Savior’s relationship with those who make covenants. If we look at the scriptures in this way, the history lessons serve to teach us how to approach our covenant relationship with the Lord. When we read in the Old Testament that Jehovah made an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his seed (his posterity), we should see and recognize that all those who make sacred priesthood covenants with the Lord, by definition become Abraham’s posterity. It doesn’t matter if we are blood relatives or adopted into his family. What is important is that we become heirs to all the promises to his family through the priesthood covenants we make. Just as God literally is our Father, Jesus is our spiritual father because we become his children by submitting ourselves to his teaching and guidance through the covenants we make. But we are also the children of Abraham. Why? Because we, like Abraham before us seek the blessings of the patriarchs, to become heirs of eternal glory through obedience to God. So by following in Abraham’s footsteps, he becomes our teacher, the founder of our faith, our father. Look at the definition of father from dictionary.com.

verb (used with object)

In the Webster 1828 edition of the dictionary this lost definition was included:

He who creates, invents, makes or composes any thing; the author, former or contriver; a founder, director or instructor. God as creator is the father of all men.

These definitions are the reason we refer to Adam, Abraham, Jesus, and God as our Fathers. Once you become comfortable with the notion that anyone you submit yourself to as a student or disciple can be called your father, the scriptures lose some of their vagueness and become more clear. It doesn’t really matter who we are referring to as our father, since, like the Godhead, they are all related to the making and keeping of covenants and getting us back into the presence of God.

This makes the following statements all equally true.

I am a child of God.

I am a son/daughter of Christ.

I am a child of Abraham and of the house of Israel.

We are also all children of Adam and Noah as well, since we all came through direct descent from these two patriarchs. We are the children of many people, so don’t let statements about such things throw you when you read them in the scriptures. They are all referring to the same basic kind of father/child relationship – either a genetic descendent or family connection by way of priesthood covenants.

Jacob, Abraham’s grandson had his name changed by way of covenant to Israel. It was Jacob’s/Israel’s 12 sons who each had large families, called tribes, who collectively became the house or family of Israel. If we are not genetically related to one of these twelve families then we are automatically adopted into the house of Ephraim, through whom the priesthood responsibilities were passed.

Final Thoughts

The long and the short of this lesson is this: Every reference to covenants, to child parent relationships in those covenants refers either directly to us or to our physical or spiritual ancestors and their relationships with God. There is something for us to learn from each and every story in the scriptures, no matter what generation they come from. Everything with God is spiritual. He gives no physical commandments. So when we read about the Lord’s dealings with Israel in any generation of time, recognize that this is your family that you are reading about. These are your relatives you are learning about. These are the people whose genes you now possess, and whose covenants you now live by. Take it personally, all of it, for it is very personal. Every story has something to teach us about how our ancestors lived and died by their obedience or their disobedience. These are lessons we need to learn so we don’t repeat their mistakes.

Day 4

1 Nephi 21 – Who are the house of Israel and the Gentiles?

As you study 1 Nephi 16-20, look for passages that impress you. Some people like to highlight such verses in their scriptures; others write notes in the margins. Consider how you will record the impressions you receive.

It would be so nice if there was a clear divide between the house or family of Jacob, who had his name changed by an angel to Israel, and the gentiles. But I supposed that would be just too easy.

Israel

The family of Israel or house of Israel come from two sources. There are the genetic descendents of Jacob through one of his twelve sons, and then there are those who are adopted into the family because of their covenants at baptism. The original covenant was between God and Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. To Abraham God promised that through Abraham’s faithful obedience to all the covenants He made with him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He was also promised that the priesthood would be passed down through his lineage for the rest of the duration of the earth. The scriptural description of that period of time is for all time or in other words, until the Savior’s second coming.

If you look at your scriptures you will see that the priesthood blessings, since Abraham’s day, are found only in and through his descendents. This holds true in every subsequent dispensation of time. This is what makes the house of Israel the chosen people. They have priesthood covenants that no one else has. Even within the family of Israel, the priesthood was restricted to two genealogical lines. The male descendents of Jacob’s son Levi held the priesthood and performed all the rites in the ancient temples under the Mosaic law. The higher priesthood, what we call the Melchizedek priesthood was passed down patriarchally from father to son through Israel’s son, Joseph (who was sold into Egypt). The Nephites received their rights to the priesthood because they were all descendents of Joseph, through whom the higher priesthood was passed down.

This is partly why Jesus did not go to other nations of the earth in his mortal ministry. His ministry was all about fulfilling the promises made through the priesthood and the covenants of the priesthood to the house of Israel. It was the posterity of Israel whose job it was to take those same covenants to the nations of the earth. The people of all the other nations of the earth were generically referred to as Gentiles.

Gentiles

Generically speaking, a gentile is someone with whom the Lord has not made any covenants, and hence has no rights to the priesthood or its blessings. This does not mean gentiles do not have truth, for the Lord has very clearly stated that He has spoken to all nations of the earth and given them His truths, just not the fulness of His truth. Celestial covenants, the covenants needed for exaltation are only available through the priesthood, and those are only available in the plan of salvation given to us by God, our Father, through the house of Israel, the bearers of His priesthood.

Does this mean that no gentiles can hold the priesthood? No, it does not. Remember that the scattering of the house of Israel among the nations of the earth was for the purpose of “seeding” the genes of the covenant people among all people. Remember that part of the Abrahamic covenant where the Lord promised him that through Abraham’s seed or posterity all the nations of the earth would be blessed? The scattering of the family is what brought this about.

The Lord promised to gather them back into one body again in the last days. This is what the Restoration was all about. The Restoration was the beginning of the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to gather scattered Israel back into the covenant fold. Where are all these descendents of ancient Israel, but among all the descendents of the gentile nations of the earth? This is what the great missionary effort is all about, it is to find and teach Abraham’s seed about the covenants available to them if they are willing to obey. Joseph Smith is a descendent of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, but Joseph came from a gentile nation (The United States of America). So in this regard Joseph Smith can be referred to as both a gentile and an Israelite. We normally refer to those who have made covenants as being of the house of Israel, while those who remain outside of the covenant status are referred to as gentiles. In this regard even the Jews can be considered gentiles, for they have not yet, as a nation, accepted the covenants their forefathers once embraced.

But also among all these gentile nations are those who hear the message of the restored gospel and want what it offers. These are adopted at baptism into the covenant family, the house of Israel. In all reality it is the covenant and the keeping of the covenant that determines your place within the family of Abraham. Genetically you can be his descendent, but without the priesthood covenants you cannot be exalted. This places those adopted into the family on equal footing with those who are genetically descendents of Abraham, for the key here is obedience to the covenants.

The Lord wants the whole earth to accept His covenants and receive celestial blessings. But knowing that will not be the case, He has nurtured one blood line for millennia and granted them the responsibilities of taking the priesthood covenants He gave them to the rest of the earth. This is the reason missionary work, family history work, and temple work are the main focus of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is our responsibility to find the rest of our family and to offer God’s priesthood blessings to all of humanity as quickly as we can. Everyone’s eternal happiness depends upon it.

Day 5

1 Nephi 17:1–8, 17–22 – Having a faithful, vs. a complaining perspective.

As you study 1 Nephi 16-20, look for passages that impress you. Some people like to highlight such verses in their scriptures; others write notes in the margins. Consider how you will record the impressions you receive.

Since I just happened to recently write an article that addresses this subject, I thought I may as well refer you to what I have already said on the subject. Having faith causes us to look for the best in people and situations, while having a lack of faith causes us to see only hurt and feel only resentment.  To assist in your study I have made a PDF file of the article at the end of it, just as I do at the end of each of the Come, Follow Me lessons.

 

Scripture Study and Family Home Evening

1 Nephi 21:14–16 – Feeling forgotten

There are times when we all feel like we have been disconnected from God. We feel like our prayers bounce off the ceiling and just fall flat on the floor. We worry that we have become invisible to God, that He is not aware of what we are going through at that moment. It can be a very lonely and terrible feeling. As we look at these verses, put on your thinking cap and try to visualize what is being described by the prophet. I’ll contribute a little description of my own to help.

Here are the verses from the Book of Mormon.

14 But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.

How does the Lord prove or show that he hasn’t forgotten us? The following two verses give descriptions to us that are meant to show us how deadly earnest He is about keeping us at the forefront of His thinking every hour of every day.

15 For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

For all you men out there, have you ever seen what happens to a woman who is nursing a baby? When you have a “sucking child” the mother and the child are inseparable. Why? Because as long as the child continues to regularly feed from the mother her body continues to produce milk. The glands that hold the milk become engorged the longer she goes without nursing. Shortly it becomes uncomfortable to her as the glands holding the milk reach capacity. If she still doesn’t nurse the baby her breasts begin to hurt. They become tender to the touch, and the pain becomes agonizing. If she waits too long her glands can become infected, and then the pain goes through the roof. This is what the Lord is talking about when He asks if a mother can “forget her sucking child.”

He finishes this example by saying, she may forget, “yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.” Can you even imagine a woman experiencing that much pain, yet “forgetting” to nurse? Not going to happen. Yet even if it were possible, the Lord will never forget His covenant people.

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

Ever wonder why Jesus still carries with him the prints of the nails on his hands and feet? This is his promise to all those who have made priesthood covenants with Him. The prints of the nails from his crucifixion is what he has graven upon the palms of his hands. How can you ignore something like that? They are always in front of you. He cannot forget his covenant with those who required such a sacrifice on their behalf.

Finally, I believe that the walls he refers to are the walls of our homes, our bedrooms, our secret places. He sees us, knows us, and is mindful of us at all times. What these descriptions show us is that we are, in his eyes, an all consuming passion. His every thought is about us and his covenants with us. He is the ever faithful husband to the Church, his bride. He is our faithful father, he who teaches us the way back to our Heavenly Father. Jesus never sleeps. He never takes a break. He is not just aware of us, but is concerned for us, and loves us always and forever.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

BoM Week 05