GOD PROVIDES WITNESSES TO HIS TRUTH

stick of Judah, JosephTHE STICK OF JUDAH AND THE STICK OF JOSEPH SHALL BECOME ONE 

            I have been blogging about the testimony of prophets that Jesus is the Christ.  I’ve cited Old Testament prophets and Book of Mormon prophets. What a wonderful blessing and treasure it is to have the words of the prophets who lived before Christ on both continents!   God surely has provided an abundance of witnesses to prophesy of the coming of his Son.   Many of you know that I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon.  I believe with my whole heart that the Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ.  There is an interesting scripture in the Book of Mormon.  A prophets of old have done, he writes as the Lord speaking in first person.  In essence he is quoting God.

“Know ye not that there are more nations than one?  Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

8 Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a cwitness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?  Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another.  And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.” (2 Nephi 30:7-8)

The scripture unites perfectly with a scripture in Ezekiel.  It is an often misunderstood prophecy.  He prophesies of two sticks  joining together.  In Biblical language “sticks” are books or scriptures.

16  Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:

17  And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. (Ezekiel 37:16-17)

            The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asserts that this prophecy was fulfilled when the Church annotated and cross-referenced the King James Version of the Bible with its other standard works, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.”   In a conference address in October, 1982, Elder Boyd K. Packer, spoke of this extensive project.

“The sticks, of course, are records or books. In ancient Israel records were written upon tablets of wood or .scrolls rolled upon sticks. The record of Judah and the record of Ephraim, according to the prophecy, were to become one in our hands.

The stick or record of Judah—the Old Testament and the New Testament—and the stick or record of Ephraim—the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ—are now woven together in such a way that as you pore over one you are drawn to the other; as you learn from one you are enlightened by the other. They are indeed one in our hands. Ezekiel’s prophecy now stands fulfilled.”

As I hold the Bible and the Book of Mormon in my hands I’m amazed that I’m holding the fulfillment of an ancient prophesy.  It’s a miracle to me!  I truly love both sets of scripture.  They are a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105)

I’m blogging to testify of Jesus Christ, that he came to earth in the meridian of time to be our Savior and Redeemer.  The words of the prophets in the Old Testament, the Book of Mormon, Jesus’ apostles when He was on the earth, and modern-day prophets are unified in their testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  What is amazing to me is that their testimonies are so consistent.  They have been taught by the same source—the Holy Spirit.  I believe that there is universal truth, that truth is not relative.  There is truth that we can count on, that can be a guide to our lives.  I find truth in the words of these prophets.

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Scriptural Questions–Doubting verses Discovery

“If any of your lack wisdom, let him ask of God”

One of the things I love about the scriptures is that they require that you think.  As I read the scriptures I ask myself questions, like, “what in the world does that mean?”  My questions are always based on faith.  I come from a center of faith.  My inquiry is not to doubt, but to discover.  If an answer is not immediately available to me I put that particular question “on the shelf,” so to speak.  Eventually I believe I will find an answer.  I’m also willing to accept the fact that perhaps an answer to that question has not yet been revealed.  There are the “mysteries of God” that man is simply not able to understand with his limited, finite knowledge.  Paul says that for a time “we see through a glass darkly.”  What does that mean?  That’s a great question to ask.  I think it means though we attempt to understand spiritual things (see through the glass), sometimes our vision is obscured.  Our vision can be obscured by lack of knowledge, study, experience or even preconceived ideas or prejudice.  Sometimes our vision is obscured by the “traditions of our fathers.” It can also be obscured if there is simply not an answer “out there.”

How does one find answers to honest inquiry?  One way to ask God in prayer for understanding before you read the scriptures.  Pray that your mind can to open to ideas that you may not understand right now.   James 1:5 teaches that “If any of you lack, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”   That’s a pretty amazing promise!  I have found that as I read, pray and meditate and wait patiently for understanding, it will come over time.   I think it’s a good idea to record your questions in a  scriptural journal.  Then right down your thoughts and impressions as you continue to pray for answers.  It requires effort to learn.  The more effort we expend in learning things of the spirit, the more we will treasure the knowledge that we gain.  It was meant to be this way.  President Spencer W. Kimball, a church leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (the Mormons) stated it thus:lamp to my feet

“The treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones—but hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them. … Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking; even prayers are not enough. It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life. … Of all treasures of knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 389–90).

I have also learned that I can’t live on “borrowed light.”  Like the five wise virgins in the parable of the Ten Virgins, I need to acquire oil for my own lamp.  There are people who I trust to teach me truth, but  I must make that truth my own.   I think next time I blog I’ll blog about the people whom I trust to teach me truth.  I want to pay tribute to them.

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Book of Mormon prophets bear witness of Christ

Book of Mormon prophets quote Old Testament prophets

         This blog is part three of “Prophets testify of Christ.”   Jesus’ apostles bore witness of Bible Book of Mormonhim as a fulfillment of prophecy.  Jesus, himself, bore witness that he was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.     In harmony with the Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon prophets refer to, and quote, Old Testament prophets as they testified of Christ, thus proving that the Book of Mormon people had access to the writings of the prophets.

The Nephites had the writings of Old Testament prophets in the record known as the Brass Plates

            The Book of Mormon narrative begins around 600 AD in the city of Jerusalem.  Lehi, a Book of Mormon prophet, prophesies of the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.  He also testifies of a coming Messiah.  Because of his indictment of the people’s wickedness and his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, the people seek his life.   The Lord commands Lehi to leave Jerusalem.  He and  his family hurriedly flee into the wilderness to escape the possible death of Lehi.  After they have traveled far enough for their safety Lehi sends his sons back to obtain the scriptural record known as the Brass Plates.  These Brass Plates contained the five books of Moses…and also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; and also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning. . . and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah” (1 Nephi 5:11 – 13).   This record was so important that Nephi and his brothers risked death to obtain in.  God knew that without these prophecies they would not survive spiritually.  King Benjamin, a righteous king of the Nephites, explained this to his sons:

3  And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.

4  For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time.

5  I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct. (Mosiah 1:2-5)

brass plate

Nephi and his brother, Jacob, quote extensively from Isaiah.  Nephi’s narrative states  “that I might more fully persuade them ( his descendants) to believe in the Lord, their Redeemer, I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet, Isaiah.” 

Later in the Book of Mormon, Abinadi, a powerful and courageous prophet, teaches that all the prophets, ever since the world began, have testified of Christ.

33  For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people?  Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?

34  Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?

35  Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted? (Mosiah 13:33-35

            In the book of Helaman, the prophet Nephi (a later prophet who was named after the first Nephi), extensively cites the prophecies of Old Testament prophecies as they testified of Christ.  It is a lengthy passage but very significant as it names several Old Testament prophets, even some whose writings we don’t currently have.  Their prophecies were undoubtedly an important part of the Brass Plates.

16  And now behold, Moses did not only testify of these things, but also all the holy prophets, from his days even to the days of Abraham.

17  Yea, and behold, Abraham saw of his coming, and was filled with gladness and did rejoice.

18  Yea, and behold I say unto you, that Abraham not only knew of these things, but there were many before the days of Abraham who were called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son; and this that it should be shown unto the people, a great many thousand years before his coming, that even redemption should come unto them.

19  And now I would that ye should know, that even since the days of Abraham there have been many prophets that have testified these things; yea, behold, the prophet Zenos did testify boldly; for the which he was slain.

20  And behold, also Zenock, and also Ezias, and also Isaiah, and Jeremiah, (Jeremiah being that same prophet who testified of the destruction of Jerusalem) and now we know that Jerusalem was destroyed according to the words of Jeremiah.  O then why not the Son of God come, according to his prophecy?

22  Our father Lehi was driven out of Jerusalem because he testified of these things.  Nephi also testified of these things, and also almost all of our fathers, even down to this time; yea, they have testified of the coming of Christ, and have looked forward, and have rejoiced in his day which is to come.

23  And behold, he is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him; and they gave unto him glory, because of that which is to come.  (Helaman 8:16-20, 22-23)

All of these prophets were cited because of their testimony of Christ.  As verse 22 states, “they have testified of the coming of Christ, and have looked forward, and have rejoiced in his day which is come.”

I have quoted extensively from the scriptures in this blog, but it is important because that is where the words of the prophets are found.   The importance of the testimony of these prophets of old can’t be overstated.  They are the foundation of our testimony of Christ.  When Jesus came those who were honest in  heart recognized Him as the Messiah.  Jesus taught about the importance of prophecy.   Shortly before his crucifxion he was teaching his apostles in the upper room.  He told them of his impending death and resurrection.  Then he said, “I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.”  (John 14:2)  As we study the Old Testamant prophecies in the Bible and the Book of Mormon we can see their literal fulfillment in the life of Christ.  He truly “his name shalled be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

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Old Testament Prophets Testify of Christ

THE PRIMARY ROLE OF PROPHETS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT WAS TO PROPHESY OF THE COMING OF CHRIST. 

         One of the reasons that I blog is to bear my witness of Jesus Christ.  If Jesus is indeed the Son of God that has very significant implications in lives of each one of us.  If he  is the Son of God, then what he taught was from God and is truth to guide our lives.   In his interview with Pilate before his crucifixion, Jesus said that he came into the world to bear witness of the truth.  Pilate then asked him, “What is truth?”  (John 18:37)  Isn’t that the quest of the ages, “what is truth?”  If one could know the truth then there is a sure guide to your life.

So, the ultimate question is, “is Jesus the Son of God?” How do we come to know that He is the Son of God?  The very first beginnings of a testimony of Jesus is to hear the testimony of others.  This arouses our desire to discover this truth for ourselves.  In my last blog I wrote about the role of prophets and apostles.  It is to bear witness of Christ.   We know that Jesus’ apostles bore witness of him continually.  Jesus asked them to “go into all the world and peach his gospel.”   Did the prophets in the Old Testament testify of Jesus Christ?  Although they don’t mention the name, Jesus Christ, the Old Testament is rich in symbolic references to Christ.  Prophecies of his birth, mission, sufferings, death and resurrection abound.  The Jews knew and understood these prophecies of a coming Messiah.  They were looking for and expecting the fulfillment of these prophecies.  It was very much on their minds.  They knew that Moses had prophesied of a coming Messiah.

The first book of John tells of four friends who recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy.  These four friends lived in Bethsaida.  They had undoubtedly studied the scriptures together.   The first to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah was Andrew, a follower of John the Baptist.  He immediately sought his brother, Simon Peter, and excitedly told him, “We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.”  The next day Jesus found Phillip who then sought Nathanael and told him, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”   One can only imagine their excitement in finding the promised Messiah!

            Matthew, the writer of the first gospel, specifically points out many incidents in the life of Jesus that are the fulfillment of prophecy.   As he records the angel’s visitation to Joseph commanding him to take Mary as his wife he says:

Matthew 1:20  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

21  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

22  Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

23  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.       

            As the apostles went forth to witness of Jesus’ resurrection, they specifically taught that he was the one prophesied by the prophets that should come.  Peter taught “those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. (Acts 3:18)  He also taught that “Jesus Christ was before preached unto them,” and that Jesus was the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy that the Lord would raise up “a prophet like unto him (Moses), and that all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” (Acts 3:20-24)           

Paul, a knowledgeable and influential Jew, and a member of the Pharisees before his conversion, knew and understood the writings of the prophets.  After his conversion he delighted in showing that Jesus was the one testified of by the prophets of old.  He states, “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. (Acts 28:23)

JESUS TAUGHT THAT HE WAS THE FULFILLMENT OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES 

            Most importantly, Jesus, himself, taught that the prophets of the Old Testament testified of Him.   In a dramatic moment early in his ministry after his return to Nazareth, he went to the synagogue and stood to read.  He requested from the book of Esaias (Isaiah).  The passage which he read had specific reference to the Messiah whose coming the nation awaited. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. ( Luke 4:18-19).   He quietly affirms with “gracious words”, but with words that carried authority, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”  The reference was unmistakable.  All who heard it understood its implications.  He has stated that he is the prophesied Messiah, yet the Jews could not believe that this humble, gracious man who was the son of Joseph could be their Messiah.  Having so firm an idea that the Messiah would be a conquering hero who would deliver them from their bondage to Rome; their hearts weren’t open to the quiet whisperings of the spirit that this man, Jesus, was indeed the promised Messiah, the Son of God who would deliver them spiritually from their sins.

            After his resurrection there was a singular teaching moment when he appeared to two of his disciples walking on the road to Emmaus.  Why these two men were chosen for this special appearance is not known, but it was an important encounter as it is included in the book of Luke.   They were walking and discussing the events of the last few days of Jesus death and the subsequent rumors of his resurrection.  They, like many others, were expecting the Messiah to come as a mighty deliverer.  After listening to them, Jesus gently upbraided them for being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.”  Then “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them the scriptures which concerning himself.”    

The Book of Mormon is essentially an Old Testament book.  421 pages of its 531 pages were written before the coming of Christ.  The crowning event in the Book of Mormon is when the resurrected Christ appears to the Nephites.  After introducing himself by name, the first words he speaks are to honor the prophets who testified of him.  He states that the scriptures concerning him are fulfilled and that he is the one whom the prophets have testified should come.   Here again the Bible and the Book of Mormon become one in their testimony that Jesus is the Christ.

3 Nephi 9:15-16  Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God.  I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.  I was with the Father from the beginning.  I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name. I came unto my own, and my own received me not.  And the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled.

3 Nephi 11:10  Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.

 It is also very significant that on the second day that Jesus visits the Nephites, He teaches, as did Peter in Acts 3:20-24, that he is the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Moses of a prophet whom the Lord would raise up among them who would be like unto Moses and whoever would not hear this prophet would be cut off.   He honors his prophets again by saying that “all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have testified of me” (3 Nephi 20:23-24).  Again, showing the continuity between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  In fact this prophecy seems to be so important that it is also quoted by Nephi in 1 Nephi 22:20.  Very, very significantly, Nephi clearly states that “this prophet spoken of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel.”

20  And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people, unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A  prophet  shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.  And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.

21  And now I, Nephi, declare unto you, that this prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel; wherefore, he shall execute judgment in righteousness. (1 Nephi 22:20-21)

As we contemplate the multitude of testimonies that Jesus is the Promised Messiah, the one prophesied of through the centuries by the prophets, we can be filled with wonder and gratitude that our loving Heavenly Father has given us such a multitude of irrefutable evidence of the life and ministry of His Only Begotten Son.  God does not work in darkness or secrecy.  “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

The testimony of prophets touches my heart.  I am a truthseeker.  I seek to know who can teach me truth.   I pray continually to be able to recognize truth.  I feel  like Andrew in the book of John.   After he knew that Jesus was the Messiah he excitedly ran to find his brother saying, “We have found the Messias, which is being interpreted, the Christ.”  I, too, feel like I have found the Messias, even Jesus Christ.


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The Primary Mission of Prophets is to bear witness of Christ

prophetsJust before Jesus ascended to heaven he gave his apostles the divine commission
to bear witness of Him when He said, “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.”  What in particular were they to be witnesses of?   Jesus asked his apostles a very important question, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matt:16:13) Simon Peter answered the question thus: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matt:16:16 To bear that witness, that Jesus is the Christ, to all the world has been the focus of all the
prophets both in the Old and New Testaments.  It is the focus of latter-day prophets and apostles as well.    In a beautiful collaborating statement showing that the church which Jesus established and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are one in purpose, Joseph Smith said, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

After the death of Jesus the primary mission of his Apostles was to be witnesses of his resurrection. The first act which they performed as a quorum of Apostles, with Peter at the head, was to choose another Apostle to take the place of Judas Iscariot.  Peter said:  “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us . . . must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. Acts 1:21—22) From that time forth they went forth, boldly, and at the peril of death, to bear witness of Jesus and his resurrection.   Just as Joseph Smith knew, they knew that Christ’s newly established church was built on “the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried and rose again the third day.”  The following are just a few examples showing that knew and understood their divine mission.

Act 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

Act 4:33  And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

Acts 10:42 – 43 (42)  And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. (43)  To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “built upon a foundation of apostles and prophets,” just as was Christ’s church when he was on the earth.  If the Jesus’ early apostles were called to be special witnesses of Christ, then his latter-day apostles would have the same divine commission.   The Doctrine and Covenants, another of the Standard Works of the church, defines the role of Apostles.  It teaches “The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world. (D&C 107:23)

            Throughout the history of the church from Joseph Smith to President Thomas S. Monson, including all those who were ordained to the office of an apostle, each has born a powerful witness that Jesus is the Christ.   One has only to listen to the General Conferences of the church to hear their testimonies.  The combined strength of the testimonies of literally every prophet and apostle of the latter-days resonates through the years and is indeed the foundation of the LDS church.   On January 1st, 2000 the First Presidency of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles publicly declared their testimony of Christ.  In eloquent language it is an unequivocal statement of the divinity of Christ.   The last paragraph reads thus:

            “We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the Immortal Son of God.  He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father.  He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world.  His way is the way that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.  God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”   

In addition that testimony permeates every book of scripture that is revered by the church.  One of the most powerful testimonies in all scripture is given by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in the Doctrine and Covenants. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!  For we saw him, even on the hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.” (D&C 76:22-23

Bearing witness of Jesus Christ is the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon.  Indeed the title of the Book of Mormon is “The Book of Mormon, Another Testimony of Jesus Christ.”   Paul teaches of the divine law of witnesses, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. (Corinthians 13:10)  In accordance to that law, in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi speaks of three individuals who have seen the Savior and bear witness of him, Isaiah, Jacob, his brother, and himself,                            Bible Book of Mormon 2

And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words.  For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true.  Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.” (2 Nephi 11:2-3)

For me personally, knowing that there are prophets and apostles in our day, as well as in days of old is comforting and assuring.  They teach truth.  I have often asked my children, “Whom do you trust to teach you truth?  Do you trust friends or political leaders?  Do you trust the current cultural trends?”   I trust God to teach me truth and He speaks through his prophets.  Amos, a prophet in the Old Testament, teaches, “Surely God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants, the prophets.”  (Amos 3:7)  God’s prophets bear witness of Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

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Jesus is the Christ—the Divine Purpose of the Book of Mormon

Bible Book of MormonJesus is the Christ—the Divine Purpose of the Book of Mormon

Who is this Jesus?”  Perhaps that is the most important question a person could ask.  Elder Robert D. Hales, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently asked and then answered this question in a recent general conference address.  He said the following, “He [Jesus] participated with His Father in the Creation of the world and was responsible, under the direction of His Father, to create all things on the face of the earth. “And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.” Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Mediator with the Father. He is the Savior who laid down His life for us and pleads our cause with the Father.” (May, 2008, Ensign)

The name “Christ” means the anointed one” in Greek or Messiah in Hebrew.  To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe that He is the one chosen and anointed by Father to be the author of our salvation.  He is the “firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, and the Redeemer of the world.”  (The Living Christ)2.  It is to believe that he is the source of eternal life and that salvation comes only in and through faith on his name and obedience to the principles of his gospel.

Jesus’ whole ministry was devoted to bearing witness that he was indeed the Son of God, our Redeemer, the Anointed One, and that He came to do the will of the Father. He repeatedly spoke of his Father and that his Father sent him.  After feeding the five thousand on the shores of Galilee the people wanted him to be their king, but Jesus takes the opportunity to bear witness of his Father.  He says, “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” (John 6:38)  Every act and every miracle was calculated to bear witness of his divinity and had the approval of His Father in Heaven.  His loving relationship with his Father permeates his ministry.  He speaks of him as “my Father.”  He addresses Him as “my Father” in prayer.  On the cross He pleads with Abba, his Father.  Abba is a personal, familiar term for father in Hebrew (Bible Dictionary).  It is an intimate term for the Father in Heaven.  This is no distant relationship.  His deep desire for his listeners to believe that he is the Son of God sent down from heaven to do the will of his Father is heartfelt and moving.   During his last conversation with his Apostles he clearly states, “I came forth from the Father and am come into the world.  Again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” His Apostles respond, “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.” Jesus plaintively asks, “Do ye know believe?” john 16:30

To bear witness that Jesus is the Christ is the stated purpose of the Book of Mormon.  On the title page of the Book of Mormon, Moroni writes that the forthcoming record is written “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations.”

The purpose of scripture is to bear witness that Jesus is the Christ

Jesus clearly states that the purpose of the scriptures is to testify of Him when he says, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”   (John 5:39).   Towards the end of his record John also states that the scriptures are written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:31)  Even though the Book of Mormon was written a continent away and the bulk of it was written before Jesus’ earthly ministry, each writer knew that the divine purpose of their writing was to bear witness that Jesus is the Christ.   Nephi states, “For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. (1 Nephi 6:4)  He later says, “Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the Law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him. (2 Nephi 11:4)

It is clear that the Book of Mormon prophets knew of Christ.  They knew his name. They worshipped the Father in his name.  Jacob, Nephi’s brother, taught, “For, for this intent have we written these things, that they (their children) may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.  Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name. “ (Jacob 4:4-5)stick of Judah,png

The Bible and the Book of Mormon are united in their cause to bear witness of Christ.

Ezekiel prophesied of the testimony of two books uniting when he said: “Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions. And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.”  In Old Testament language “stick” means books or scriptures.  The stick of Judah is the Bible which originated from the tribe of Judah or the Jewish people.  The stick of Ephraim is the Book of Mormon because

Indeed Nephi teaches the same truth “Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word?  Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?  Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another.  And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.”

Certainly we limit God when we say that the Bible is the only witness of Him and that there can be no more revelation.  How can we as mere mortals presume to know all of the ways in which God communicates to his children?  Jeremiah and Paul both describe God as the “true and living God.”  Prophets in the Book of Mormon also use the term “true and living God.”  A “living God” means a God who is actively involved in the lives of his children.  He communicates with them.  He’s not silent and distant.

The Bible and the Book of Mormon bear witness of each other.

          The Bible and the Book of Mormon bear witness of each other.  God, in his mercy, provides more than one witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ, that he is the Savior of the world and he is the only way to salvation.  At one point Nephi sees a great vision of the life of the Savior and the latter days.  In this vision he is taught by an angel.  When the angel says, “the record of thy seed,” he is referring to the descendants of Nephi.   The angel states, These last records, (the Book of Mormon) which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (the Bible) . . . and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.   And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed (the Book of Mormon) as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in bone; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth. (1 Nephi 13:40-41)  If God is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” and if he is “from all eternity to all eternity,” then so is his gospel.  Truly there is “one God and one Shepherd over all the earth,” and that God is Jesus Christ.

Mormon who abridged and compiled the Book of Mormon also teaches that the gospel of Christ will come forth in two records which validate each other. In these verses Mormon is concluding his record.  He is speaking personally not only to his descendants, but to each of us.  He says, Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record (the Book of Mormon) but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews (the Bible) which record shall come from the Gentilesunto you.  For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if dye believe that ye will believe this also.”  (Mormon 7:8-9)

The writers of the Book of Mormon knew of their divine commission to bear record of Jesus Christ.mormonpng

            It is clear that each Book of Mormon writer knew of his divine commission in writing.  it was to bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  It is not couched in symbolism that only those “who have ears to hear may understand.”  From its very beginning the Book of Mormon uses clear and unmistakable language in bearing witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.   In the very first chapter Lehi sees a vision of the Savior described as One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon day.”  He gives Lehi a book to read.  Lehi testifies to the Jews that the book manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah and the redemption of the world.”   Lehi’s vision sets the tone for the rest of the Book of Mormon as a testimony of Jesus, the Son of God, and that he was the promised Messiah.

Nephi gives more of his father’s prophecies a few chapters later.   In an unusual prophecy of a time-frame, Nephi quotes his father, “six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.”  (1 Nephi 10:4)

In the same chapter Nephi defines clearly that the future Messiah to come is the Son of God, And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous that I might see and hear of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”   Nephi then has his own remarkable vision of the coming Messiah.   He testifies, “And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.  And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.” 1 Nephi 11:32 – 33)

After this beginning testimony of Lehi and Nephi, we could march through the Book of Mormon and glean a prophetic testimony of Jesus from almost every page.  Moroni finishes the record with a powerful invitation to come unto Christ, Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.  And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Book of Mormon | Moroni 10:32 – 33)

          There is probably no other book written that is so true to its purpose than the Book of Mormon.  It not only teaches that Jesus is the Christ, it teaches us how to come unto Christ and be saved.  It teaches us that he is the only way to salvation.  It teaches the doctrine of Christ.  It teaches us of the “straight and narrow” way to eternal life.  It teaches us that Jesus inviteth all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Nephi 16:33). 

Nephi pleads with us “hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ.  And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. (2 Nephi 33:10)  One cannot read those words without feeling of the love, passion and purity of intent of the Book of Mormon writers.

 

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How do we get nearer to God through the Book of Mormon?

HOW DO WE GET NEARER TO GOD BY ABIDING BY ITS PRECEPTS? 

            As children of our Heavenly Father we long to come to know Him, to be close to Him.  Memories shrouded by the veil of mortality beckon us homeward.  In our earthly travail we need the hope that is only available through a relationship with Jesus Christ.   President David O. McKay quoted James E. Gordon about how dismal life would be without hope in Christ.  “A cathedral without windows, a face without eyes, a field without flowers, an alphabet without vowels, a continent without rivers, a night without stars, and a sky without a sun—these would not be so sad as a . . . soul without Christ.”  Oh, how we need Jesus Christ in our everyday life!

A daily study of the Book of Mormon can help us have that relationship with Jesus Christ that we so desire.  President Benson said: “Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly? If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book.” 13 Keystone  of Religion

What are some of the precepts taught in the Book of Mormon that if understood and lived help us draw nearer to God?  What are the great truths which distill upon our souls and become imbedded in our hearts as we study the Book of Mormon?  Although this list is not inclusive here are some of the precepts taught in the Book of Mormon that help us draw near to God:

  • The Book of Mormon contains the testimonies of ancient prophets that Jesus is the Christ (use quote from Joseph)
  • The Book of Mormon invites us to come unto Christ.
  • The Book of Mormon contains many specific prophecies of the coming of Christ.
  • The Book of Mormon teaches that here is other way for salvation, only in and through Jesus Christ.
  • The Book of Mormon teaches how to come unto Christ.
  • The Book of Mormon teaches the fundamental principles of the gospel.
  • The Book of Mormon teaches the Plan of Salvation.
  • The Book of Mormon teaches of the role of and ministry of angels.
  • The Book of Mormon exposes anti-Christ philosophies that will be in  our day.
  • The Book of Mormon warns of some of the spiritual dangers of our day.

Any book that would accomplish the above list is indeed a “Pearl of Great Price!”  Indeed, the whole focus of the Book of Mormon is to bring us to Christ.

A DAILY STUDY OF THE BOOK OF MORMON FOCUSES OUR MINDS ON CHRIST 

            A daily study of the Book of Mormon focuses our minds on eternal truths.  Focusing our minds on eternal truths draws us closer to God.  There is great power in our thoughts, intents and desires. The exercise of our mind is through our free will.  We make the choice of the focus of our minds.  As night follows day the  focus of our thoughts determine our actions.   Paul encourages us “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”(2 Cor 10:5)  Alma, in the Book of Mormon encourages us with these words:   “Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. (Alma 37:36 )   This idea of focusing on and directing our minds towards Jesus Christ daily, instead of simply on Sunday when we’re at church, is of paramount importance. Indeed the focus of our thoughts throughout the day is the genesis of our faith, the motivator of our actions.  Jesus needs to be in our thoughts and awareness constantly.  The more we focus on him the more we become like him.  Alma teaches “how knowest a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?”

THE GREATEST NEED IN ALL THE WORLD

In a conference address Elder James E. Faust taught about establishing a personal relationship with the Savior.  He recounted the following incident:  “Recently in South America, a seasoned group of outstanding missionaries was asked, “What is the greatest need in the world?” One wisely responded: “Is not the greatest need in all the world for every person to have a personal, ongoing, daily, continuing relationship with the Savior?” Having such a relationship can unchain the divinity within us, and nothing can make a greater difference in our lives as we come to know and understand our divine relationship with God.”15 (Oct 76 Conference).

It is through our daily “feasting” upon the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon and abiding by its teachings that we have a personal, ongoing, daily, continuing relationship with the Savior. Nephi eloquently explains the necessity of feasting upon the words of Christ.  “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.”16

Latter-day prophets have testified of the blessings that can come into our lives through a daily study of the Book of Mormon.  Marion G. Romney said the following:

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

These promises—increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, increased spirituality and righteousness—are not idle promises, but exactly what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said the Book of Mormon will help us draw nearer to God. ” (The Keystone of our Religion, President Ezra Taft Benson, October Conference, 1986)

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