covenant
Week 20 is scheduled for study May 11-17, 2020. When we enter into any covenant with God, we can expect certain behaviors from Him. The Nephite’s refused His protection and His promises of punishment, and as a result spent almost 25 years in bondage learning some very hard lessons about the goodness of God. All of it could have been avoided if they had just repented the first time Abinadi came to them.

Day 1

Mosiah 18:1–17 – Baptism includes a covenant to serve God and stand as a witness of Him.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls.” 

The baptismal promise is a wonderful thing. It is so representative of all of the covenants we make with God that follow this first of all the covenants. Let’s take a quick look at the covenant of baptism as if it were on a weighing scale. On the left side let’s list what we are to do to be worthy of the blessings on the right side provided by the Lord.

The credit for this image goes to my good wife, Elaine.

Yes, if you put our four requirements on a scale next to God’s two promised blessings – by the numbers we have to give more. But if you look at which is more difficult, more valuable, and of longest duration, what God offers us far outweighs any effort we might put forth on our end of the covenant. This is the nature of all covenants. With God, whatever effort we put forth, the Lord’s promised blessings far outweigh anything we have to do to receive His rewards. All covenants are this kind of a win/win for both us and our Father in Heaven.

Today’s lesson has four questions or sets of questions. Answer each of them honestly, and thoughtfully. I think you will be surprised at your own answers. I would like to take a look at the fourth and final set of questions.

Keeping the baptismal covenant

Refer to the list of four items above then answer the question: “How does keeping your baptismal covenant help you be “filled with the Spirit”?” This is asking, how do you help to bear someone else’s burdens so they are lighter? Note that we are seeking that their burdens are lighter. We are not seeking that our burdens are lighter. We are deliberately taking upon ourselves responsibilities and labors in an effort to help someone else. You can relate this kind of commitment to the commitment we make when we get married and have a spouse to uphold and support in life. We also make this kind of commitment when we have children. Isn’t it interesting that both of these examples are the source of some of life’s greatest joys, as well as greatest sorrows? It is no different when we devote ourselves to laboring in the service of our neighbors.

Learning how to mourn with those that mourn is not an easy thing. Too many of us just want to put bandaids on things and call it good. Mourning for the loss of a loved one, for example, is a long-term process that could last for years. It requires us to become sensitive to the needs of the one who is in mourning. And what I need while I mourn, may be completely different from what you may need in your time of mourning. We need to learn to look for signs that indicate where we might be of service to emotionally, as well as physically, or socially support and uplift the one who has experienced a great loss. This includes the loss to addiction or rebellion of a child or spouse, not just someone in death. Someone may have lost a job that they had devoted their whole lives to. They have just lost a great source of their perceived identity, leaving them lost and wandering emotionally. There are many things in life that cause one to mourn.

The pattern

Compare the sides of the scale pictured above. Do you see the pattern? When we learn to do the four things required of us on the left, the Lord says that we have accomplished what we were sent here to do, and therefore are prepared for the blessings He lists on the right. Covenants are designed to change us from who we currently are into much better versions of ourselves, versions who will be comfortable in the presence of celestial company.

Day 2

Mosiah 18:17–30 – God’s people should be united.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls.” 

Yesterday I finished the lesson by pointing out a pattern. Today I will open with a pattern. The Lord wants us to unite so we are free to act for ourselves. The world wants us to unite so it can control what we do. The Lord is against division in almost any form, while the world divides, and divides, and divides. Have you noticed that more and more groups are appearing all over the planet? Every subculture suddenly wants to be independent and be their own nation. We are bombarded with movements and subcultures who want to be separate and apart from everyone else. There isn’t any such thing these days as “one for all and all for one.” Now it is becoming “every man for himself.” 

This division of the people pit each of us against each other, either physically or philosophically. It is unhealthy for any society to be divided, for it always leads to contention. The same is true in the family, the ward, or the Stake. The only remedy, surprise, surprise, is to unify ourselves. Have you noticed that one of the first things the Lord tries to do when He gives the gospel to a people is to see if they can live the law of consecration? Eventually, when we all learn to get along with each other and to look out for each other (refer to the baptismal covenants above) this law is what we will live. We will be able to live it because we will have learned to share and not hoard, to give and not feel a need to take for ourselves.

A great place to start learning to be unified, especially since it is less threatening and intimate than the family, is in Church. If unity hasn’t been a subject of constant discussion within the family, learning to become unified with other Church members can help us ease into the practice of putting others first and focusing on the needs of others before our own. For some, this may be easier than trying to tackle it in the home if we haven’t ever really focused on service and sacrifice as a family before.

Finally, for the end of today’s lesson, look at Mosiah 18:21.

21 And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.

I had to look up the definition of “knit” to see the significance of its use in this verse. When you knit a garment, you interlock loops of fabric so they can’t be pulled apart. It is a symbol of very close connections between people as well. A close knit family is one that cannot be separated or made to turn on each other. They defend and stand up for each other. This is what the Lord wants from each of us in the Church. This is another one of those intended consequences of living the baptismal covenant.

Day 3

Mosiah 19-20 – The words of the prophets will be fulfilled.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls.” 

For today’s lesson I refer you to an article I wrote about Abinadi and his preaching. Be sure to read the PDF file at the bottom of the article. The whole article only serves to introduce what is in that PDF file.

Day 4

Mosiah 21-24 – God can make my burdens light.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls.” 

I can’t believe I am about to say this, but I actually disagree with something the Come, Follow Me manual says. The manual states that Limhi’s people and Alma’s people fell into bondage for different reasons. I maintain that they fell into bondage for the exact same reason. Abinadi told the people that if they didn’t repent they would be brought into bondage. To repent they had to repent in sackcloth and ashes. None of the people did this. So two years later when Abinadi returned, his message was different. Now it was repent or be destroyed. They were already guaranteed bondage from his prophecy of two years prior. I hope that is the greatest disagreement I ever have with the manual. 😉

Lessons on bondage

It is true that each group fell into bondage by a different route, but how they handled their bondage, and how they were delivered from bondage provide timeless lessons for us today. The nature of bondage doesn’t change, but our response to bondage tells the story. Our bondage may be to pornography, addictive substances, to nights out with our friends, social media, gambling, computer games, or any one of a million other things that hold our attention and prevent us from putting God first in our life, including our expensive toys, like RVs, bikes, etc. that take all our time maintaining so we no longer feel we have the time to do the service the Lord requires of us.

As you read and compare the bondage and the experiences of each group had while in bondage, look at how they handled it. Who kept fighting against it, without turning to the Lord for support? Who kept faithful to their covenants and endured their trials well until the Lord saw fit to release them from what was beyond their control to escape? We could be discussing personal addiction here as well as physical bondage. There are many ways in life to be kept prisoner. The Lord can free us from any prison, but it must be done in His way and in His time.

Day 5

Mosiah 23:21–24; 24:8-17 – I can trust the Lord.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls.” 

To start this lesson off, let’s look back at the original words of Abinadi, the first time he came into the city to prophesy to them. This prophecy takes place two years before he returns in disguise and tells them the day of their being able to avoid punishment from the Lord is past. For when Abinadi came the second time it was a pronouncement of bondage and punishment. There was no longer a grace period being offered. Here is the original warning in Mosiah 11:20–25.

20 And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord—Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger.

21 And except they repent and turn to the Lord their God, behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies; yea, and they shall be brought into bondage; and they shall be afflicted by the hand of their enemies.

22 And it shall come to pass that they shall know that I am the Lord their God, and am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of my people.

23 And it shall come to pass that except this people repent and turn unto the Lord their God, they shall be brought into bondage; and none shall deliver them, except it be the Lord the Almighty God.

24 Yea, and it shall come to pass that when they shall cry unto me I will be slow to hear their cries; yea, and I will suffer them that they be smitten by their enemies.

25 And except they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God, I will not hear their prayers, neither will I deliver them out of their afflictions; and thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me. (Emphasis added)

Now you know why Alma and his people HAD to be brought into bondage. Their day of grace had passed, and their punishment pronounced upon them. Limhi and his people were slower to respond, but eventually got there. But they were also required to go through a period of bondage. Why? Because the conditions set by God had to be honored. And everything Abinadi told them two years before his death came true, both for the people of Alma, and the people of Limhi. All of their suffering, which lasted nearly 25 years, could have been avoided if they had just repented when the Lord sent His servant to warn them of what was coming.

As a side note, this is what happens when we are called to repent. When we choose to recognize and acknowledge that we have sinned, either because of what we did or did not do, and should have done, we may have to suffer for our sin, but that suffering is never as bad as it will be if we choose not to repent and keep on sinning for a while longer. The punishment of the wicked is always more severe than the punishment of the righteous. Do you think that the repenting of the people of Noah in sackcloth and ashes would have been anywhere nearly as bad as 24+ years in bondage to wicked taskmasters?

How much happier would Noah’s people have been had they repented two years sooner when the Lord gave them their final warning? They would have been protected by the Lord from the Lamanites. They would have been blessed each and every day because of their choice to turn to the Lord and live righteous lives. That whole quarter of a century of bondage could have been avoided and never known to them. That is what the Lord is doing for each of us when He calls us, through our leaders, to repentance. We will never know what might have been, but when we choose to repent we always know a happier future than we would have had otherwise.

This brings us to the title of today’s lesson. “I can trust the Lord.” The Lord is the God of this universe. Whatever He decrees comes to pass, no matter how unlikely we may think it could be that it is possible for it to happen as He describes it. But it always does, for whatever He declares and says will happen does, in fact, happen. That means that His promises to bless and protect us are just as valid as His promises to punish and destroy us. As always, it is our choice, whether individually or as a group. We can always trust the Lord to follow through with His promises.

Scripture Study and Family Home Evening

Mosiah 21:15; 24:11-15 – What can we learn about how God answers our prayers?

This week’s lessons are largely about the Lord’s patterns of behavior. When we recognize that God is predictable, we can learn what to expect when we do, or don’t do, certain things. In this case, the Lord had something to teach His children about trusting in Him. (When doesn’t He have something to teach His children?)

The people were in bondage for almost a quarter of a century. This gave them a long time to learn how to rely on each other, how to unite as a people for their own survival. This also gave the Lord the time He needed to teach them patience and reliance on His word, things they as a people were sorely lacking when all this started before Abinadi came into their midst.

The Lord was able to bless Alma’s people because of the trust they put in Him. He blessed them with a change in attitudes and the abilities they required in order to bear up under the burdens that had been lashed onto their backs. He didn’t remove the burdens, but showed them that with Him on their side they could continue in any situation and still find joy. He strengthened them physically, and helped to change their hearts and enlarge their comprehension and understanding of Him so they could still rejoice, even under such difficult physical and social circumstances.

This is what each of us can learn about how God answers our prayers. He will not usually remove the impediments that are causing us to stumble and struggle. Instead, He works from the inside out and changes our perception, our attitudes, our emotional responses, etc., so we recognize that God is in control, and the He can make anything better than it is without Him in the picture. What was it the Lord said about why He wouldn’t immediately deliver the people of Alma from bondage? He said in Mosiah 24:14

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

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

BoM Week 20

(Mosiah 18-24)