spiritual sight
Week 44 is scheduled for study Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2020. The recurring theme for this week is spiritual blindness and spiritual sight. When we repent we increase our capacity for greater spiritual sight. The problem with the Nephites at this time is that they had become ungrateful, and had grown completely blind to spiritual things.

Day 1

Mormon 1 – I can live righteously despite the wickedness around me.

As you read Mormon 1-6, ponder what you learn from Mormon’s example. Record what you feel inspired to do.

I am struggling with a way to clearly state my feelings about this subject, so please look past my clumsy words and try to feel the urgency of what I am laboring to say.

The manual encourages us to compare Mormon’s desires with the Nephite people’s desires. Their only example to show us what to look for comes in verses 14 and 15 of Mormon 1.

14 And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief

Let’s look at just verse 14. This verse tells us that God’s gifts are based on our belief in Him and our willingness to keep his commandments. When the people didn’t believe, and they didn’t keep the commandments – i.e. they were wicked – there were no gifts from God. These gifts are all the gifts of the Spirit we have been taught both in the scriptures and in Conference talks. I refer you to the wonderful talk from Elder Bednar used in the FHE/Personal Study section of this week’s lessons.

Consider this – why do you think people choose not to believe in God and His commandments? Do you think it is because they are untrusting or is it that they simply don’t believe in God, so why should they obey His commandments? Have you met people who don’t obey commandments? If so, what is your observation as to why they choose not to believe and obey? It has been my experience that they choose not to believe, because to them God is not real. In their minds he is too abstract an idea to take seriously. Sometimes they have a beef with God. He allows suffering when they believe He should stop it, or they have questions about why things are the way they are in the world, and no one can answer those questions to their satisfaction. For these reasons, and others, they have written off God, and hence written off His commandments.

Why do you think Mormon was able, at the age of 15 to be visited by Christ? I believe it was because to him Christ was real. He believed that Christ was as real as his own friends and family members. There was nothing abstract or make believe about Jesus. He honestly believed that Christ was there, that God was there, and that when he prayed his prayers were being heard and would be answered by a real person. I believe that in Mormon’s heart God and Jesus were people who were near and listening to his every thought and plea. He believed in their love for him, and trusted in his relationship with them. It was as real and tangible to him as anything can get.

What do you think? Do you think people who choose not to believe in God’s promises and warnings do so because they believe in God, but have other reasons for acting like they don’t believe, or is it that in their mind God is simply not a reality that can be taken seriously, so they choose not to believe in Christ?

When we look at what the world is telling us every single day, how real is Christ? Does the world believe in Christ? If they don’t believe in him then how can they believe in any of his teachings? If Jesus is not a reality then Christianity, with all its rules and regulations, is a self-imposed fantasy. So why would anyone believe in, and live their life according to a fantasy? That makes no sense.

The manual asks the question: “What do you learn that inspires you to live righteously in a wicked world?” How do you think Mormon managed to live righteously in his wicked world? Our society is quickly approaching the level of wickedness Mormon had to deal with. That means each of us will have to figure out how we will draw closer to God as the world around us pulls further and further from God’s foundational teachings. How real is God to you? What do you think you can do to make God and Christ more real and tangible to you? Remember this one basic truth, and that is that belief is a choice. No one can prevent us from believing in what we choose to believe.

Day 2

Mormon 2:10-15 – Godly sorrow leads to true and lasting change.

As you read Mormon 1-6, ponder what you learn from Mormon’s example. Record what you feel inspired to do.

We are taught in the Book of Mormon that there are two types of sorrow connected to sin.

  • Worldly sorrow is centered around the regret that we cannot continue to find happiness in our behavior that goes against God’s commandments. This implies that people do, in fact, find a measure of happiness, or at least pleasure for a time in committing certain sins. This is what leads to the mistaken idea that sin can bring happiness. The problem with this notion is that the happiness or pleasure they experience in committing the sin doesn’t last. Eventually, the results of the sin catch up with them in unexpected ways. Sometimes the results aren’t seemingly directly connected with the sin, so they find it difficult to figure out why everything in their life is becoming so difficult.
  • Godly sorrow is centered around the recognition that we have offended God in some way with our behavior, our attitude, or our thoughts. We sorrow because we recognize that our current behavior will only continue to cause us pain in some form if we don’t make the changes necessary to find true happiness, the kind of happiness that doesn’t end. This sorrow directs us to Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Why? Because it is only through his sacrifice that our heart can be changed and our behavior brought into alignment with the nature of true happiness. Through the atonement of Christ the Spirit can teach us the ways of lasting happiness, help us understand the why and how of living righteously, the only lifestyle that permits lasting happiness to exist. This is the life that God and Christ live, and is the only life that will bring permanent peace to our soul. Commandments are the laws that govern the ability to find happiness. When we obey the commandments and seek to learn to live like Christ, we begin to experience the happiness, the lasting peace he, himself enjoys.

The thing to remember in looking at both these types of sorrow is that the sorrow our lifestyle brings us is not always easy to directly connect to a particular sin. Some results of sin can be seen directly, but most of our behaviors combine to contribute to either our happiness or our sorrows. For this reason we need to be constantly repenting of anything we can see might be holding us back from experiencing the peace of Christ in its fulness. It is this same principle that caused the Nephites in Mormon’s time to want to curse God and die. They had lost the ability to see that God has anything to do with their own ability to find happiness. They relied only on their own thinking and the thinking of others. As a result, their behavior lead only to a lifestyle that could bring sorrow and unhappiness.

In order to thwart us, Satan doesn’t have to reveal secrets, priesthoods, or combinations to us. All he has to do is prevent us from seeking the Lord and repenting and it will achieve the same ends, and is much easier to accomplish. When we take our eyes off the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and the benefits that sacrifice brings into our life, worldly sorrow is all we can expect. So Godly sorrow is actually our path to happiness. It teaches us how to be better, happier, and infuses our lives, after we have repented of our sins, with the peace and solace that can only be had from living a godly lifestyle.

I wrote an article for LDSblogs.com that talks about this very subject. You might find it enlightening.

Day 3

Mormon 3:3, 9 – I should always acknowledge God’s hand in my life.

As you read Mormon 1-6, ponder what you learn from Mormon’s example. Record what you feel inspired to do.

In these two verses of scripture the Nephite people are suffering from a very common spiritual ailment, blindness. In my opinion, one of the most difficult abilities to acquire in this life is to learn to see ourselves as living in eternity as eternal beings on a journey, progressing from stage to stage, rather than seeing our life here in mortality as the end all and be all of our existence. Because the Nephites had rejected God and all He stands for, their field of vision was reduced to the moment only. They lived for “today”, ignoring the eternal life Mormon kept preaching to them. They simply could no longer comprehend anything that extended past – not just this life – but past the desires and emotions of today. This is the real definition of being short sighted.

One of the reasons gratitude makes such a big difference in our lives is that it helps us keep God and our eternal nature real in our mind. We must be continually reminded that we are only here in mortality for a brief moment. All of our decisions and attitudes are leading us to a future reward that is obtained in the next step of our progression toward godhood. We will not see the fulfillment of our dreams here on earth, but in heaven. This requires spiritual sight. Things of the Spirit must be where we focus our life so we maintain our vision of why we are here and where we are going after this life. As soon as we lose sight of these things, spiritual blindness sets in and all we can see is the here and now, and God’s commandments are not designed just for the here and now, they are all eternal in nature.

One of the ways we can maintain our gratitude to God for His blessings, and hence maintain our spiritual sight, is to verbally express our gratitude on a regular basis. This means including in our prayers a regular mention of the things God has blessed us with, or the ability to do, or the favors He has bestowed. It is recognizing the reality of His presence in our life and how that presence has improved our life, and made it better, that helps us remain grateful, and keeps God real in our minds. This habit also helps us keep our focus on eternity, instead of on this life only. It helps us learn to make decisions based on more than how those decisions will affect us in the here and now, by helping us make decisions that will improve our prospects for returning home to God.

Spiritual blindness is rampant among the peoples of the earth. The only way the Saints themselves will not be deceived by the deceptions of the devil is to constantly be working to enhance our own ability to see things from a spiritual perspective. I think if you look at the comments Mormon makes you will see that all of his observations of the descent of his people into spiritual wickedness is based on the perception of a very real God and a very real impending judgment from this eternal Being.

Day 4

Mormon 5:8-24; 6:16-22 – Jesus Christ stands with open arms to receive me.

As you read Mormon 1-6, ponder what you learn from Mormon’s example. Record what you feel inspired to do.

Mormon’s tale of woe is a sobering example of how the prophets mourn for the sins of their people. Time and time again Mormon hoped that even the slightest sign of remorse from the people might lead them to repent so they could obtain forgiveness and find happiness again. But each time he was disappointed, because they were past feeling, and they could only experience the sorrowing of the damned, the sorrowing of those who could no longer take the old pleasure they once had in their sins. They could no longer see any escape from the misery their own behavior had brought into their lives. They had become completely spiritually blind. They had truly become merely beasts, creatures of mortality, and could be lead by Satan wherever he wanted them to go. And that path always and forever leads to physical destruction.

You have to feel kind of sorry for Mormon. He loved his people so much, but there really wasn’t anything he could do for them. He witnessed to them that the Lord is always willing to take us back. The prophets tell us all the time that we cannot descend so far that the Savior’s atoning sacrifice can’t forgive us. Yet the people would not listen, and sinned away their last chance to even be able to repent. It is true that once we have relinquished our agency to Satan that we can no longer reclaim it, for we have given it all to him. This is what they did. Each time we accept one of his temptations and act on it, we give him a little bit of control over our moral agency. These people had wholly given themselves to him, and it was no longer possible for them to repent. It didn’t matter how willing the Savior was to accept them, he cannot retrieve our agency once we have given complete control of it to someone else. That is our choice, and our consequence to choose.

This concept is why we are told over and over again in the scriptures that God has given us the ability to choose everlasting life or everlasting damnation. We wonder why anyone would deliberately choose everlasting damnation, but those who reject God are doing just that. One of the laws that govern the use of our agency states that no one, not even God, Himself can interfere with our agency until the day of judgment when we will be held accountable for our choices made in the premortal, mortal, and postmortal worlds.

All God and Christ (and of course the Holy Ghost) can do is to stand with open arms and entreat us to come to them and seek repentance, which is the great healing salve given to us by our Father to enable us to return home to Him. Christ is our healer. We cannot return home without going through our great physician. This means we must seek him out and use his atonement to change the things in our life that need changing that will make it possible for us to become like God. Christ never turns his back on us. He never tells us not to come to him. He is always entreating us to come and be healed, to come and find happiness and peace to our souls. The choice is ours.

FHE/Personal Scripture Study

Mormon 1-2 – Quick to Observe

My mother taught me that one of the secrets to learning how to follow the Spirit was to always follow the FIRST inclination or urge to do good that came into your mind or heart. The more you second guess that thought, urge, or inclination, the less likely you are to ever do it. When the Lord sees that you will always follow promptings to do good, He will use you to bless the lives of all those around you in innumerable ways. This was one of the lessons learned and taught by President Thomas S. Monson on a regular basis.

To learn to follow the promptings of the Spirit requires that we learn to pay attention to the thoughts and feelings passing through us. It takes a lot of practice to learn to identify those things that prompt us to do good in any form, but as we pray for the ability to recognize these prompts they become easier and easier to notice and follow. Eventually, they come to us and we simply act on them out of instinct. We no longer have to weigh them and try to decide where the feeling came from or where the thought came from, and whether or not we should do something about them. This is when serving others and doing good becomes a true joy. We are able to do acts of good without worrying about who gets, or if anyone gets credit. We just do it because it feels good to do it. We labor for others because we love laboring for others.

Being quick to observe, to notice when the Spirit it talking to us will be slightly different for each person. He is able to speak to us according to how we listen best. Who knows how many ways the Spirit can communicate with us. It may be anything from urges, to mental or emotional prompts, to voices, to dreams, to who knows what else. The important thing is not how he talks to us, but whether or not we are listening when he does.

The manual mentions a great talk by Elder David A. Bednar. You really should read it. It is well worth your while. He points out that the phrase to be quick to observe has at least two meanings. The first meaning is how quickly we notice behaviors, spiritual attitudes, possible sin being masked by goodness, or other things that require the gift of discernment. The second meaning refers to how quickly we obey what we have noticed. What good does noticing what the Lord wants you to see if you don’t act on what you have learned? Eventually the Lord will stop helping you see things you need for your own growth and happiness if you don’t act on what you are given. It is a sign of gratitude when we act on what we are given. The Lord loves a grateful heart.

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BoM Week 44

(Mormon 1-6)