Category: charity

Early Christian Meetings

Justin Martyr lived from 110-165 a.d. and wrote in the “sub-apostolic” age. His writings give a glimpse into how Christianity functioned in its earliest days.

In his First Apology, he provides a description of Christian worship. They met in homes, having no church buildings.

Before being considered a Christian, a candidate was baptized “in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.” (First Apology, Chapter LXI-Christian Baptism.)

Meetings began with a prayer and “saluting one another with a kiss.” Then sacrament is prepared and administered using bread a “cup of wine mixed with water” which is blessed by “giving praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.” (Id., Chapter LXV-Administration of the Sacraments.)

The early Christians recognized there was an obligation for “the wealthy among us [to] help the needy.” Therefore, after reading scripture and “the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets” donations are collected. “And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows, and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want.” (Id., Chapter LXVII-Weekly Worship of the Christians.) The reference to the “president” is to the one who conducted the meeting that week.

These simple observances were resilient enough to preserve Christianity after the death of the apostles and before any great hierarchical magisterium arose. It was the power of baptism, the sacrament, scripture study and financial aid among believers that gave Christianity its power. But it was diffused, and therefore incapable of destruction. When Justin Martyr was slain, the scattered Christians continued unaffected. It was just like when Peter and Paul were slain, and before them, James was killed. The power of Christianity reckoned from the vitality of its original roots. These roots were in Christ, His message, and teachings, which were employed to relieve one another by the alms shared from rich to poor.

When a centralized hierarchy took control over Christianity, the money that was used for the poor, the widows and orphans, was diverted to building churches, cathedrals, basilicas and palaces. Ultimately, the wealth generated by the generosity of Christian believers became the tool used by the hierarchy to buy up armies, kings, lands and treasures which were used to rule and reign as a cruel master over a subjugated population made miserable by the abuse heaped on them from Rome.

Even after the Protestant Reformation, Christianity continued to be ruled by hierarchies. Cathedrals and church buildings consumed and consume resources which are to be used to help the poor. Christ built no building, although He accepted the temple in Jerusalem as His Father’s house. Peter built no church building. Nor Paul, nor James, nor John. Christianity in the hands of the Lord and His apostles needed no brick and mortar for its foundation. It was built on the hearts of believers, brought together by the charity and assistance shared between them.

Today Christianity is not benefitted, but weakened, by hierarchies, cathedrals, edifices and basilicas housing opulence, wealth and art. Although the prophecies foretell of a temple to God in Zion, and another in Jerusalem, there are no other structures foretold to be built by Christians or latter-day Israel. How much stronger would Christianity be today if wealth were reserved for the poor, and hierarchies were stripped of their wealth?

Ephesians 4:29-5:16; 6:12:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

…For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.


Given the nature of our fight (which is spiritual), we ought to resist the culture of conflict that poisons our time, and rise above disputing among ourselves to show by our godly example what it means to follow Christ.

Weightier matters

The gospel contains practically an infinite amount of information. You can study a lifetime and not exhaust what is contained the scriptures and the ordinances.

Christ distinguished between mere physical conformity to rules, like tithing, and the “weightier matters.” While acknowledging that there is a need to do the outward ordinances, Christ elevated “judgment, mercy, and faith” to the status of being “weightier.” (Matthew 23:23.)

The Apostle Paul went one step further and elevated charity (the pure love of Christ) to being so important that salvation itself depends upon a person’s charity. (1 Corinthians 13: 1- 3.) 

Paul describes charity as longsuffering, kind, without envy, humble, meek, thinking no evil, rejoicing in the truth, willing to bear all things, full of belief and hope, and willing to endure whatever is required. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7.)

Our conversion to the gospel should produce fruit. Of all the fruit that evidences our conversion, it is our charity or love toward others which most demonstrates the gospel has taken hold in our heart.

We can be proud of our knowledge. But we can never be proud of our charity. Pride and charity are incompatible. Some of the most eager latter-day saints demonstrate by their ambition and impatience that they are unprepared for the Kingdom of God, and have not given adequate attention to the weightier matters.


I’ve written about how uncharitable it is to offer truth before a person is ready for it. Choking them with information they are not ready to receive it is a technique used with some success by Mormon critics. It works. There is no need to resort to distorting things, only to tell truths before someone is prepared to receive them.

The opposite is also true. When someone needs to hear more, then to withhold it from them is equally uncharitable. We starve them, and leave them to wither and die in their faith when we tell them the longing they have to know more cannot be satisfied by the Gospel. It is unkind, uncharitable and an offense to the Lord to tell someone their endowment from God of natural curiosity should be suppressed. This longing to know more is righteous. We are supposed to hunger and thirst to know more. Some people have quenched this desire and killed the child-like attribute to search deeply and long for answers. This does not mean we all have.

No one should be left disappointed by the reply that “you don’t need to know that.” Joseph asserted the Gospel included “all truth.” Brigham Young did as well. Joseph said, “Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails…” (See Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, chap. 22.)

Brigham said, “‘Mormonism,’ so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. ‘Mormonism’ includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fullness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods.” (DBY, p. 3).

We have yet to figure out some of the things restored to us from Abraham. We have not plumbed the depths of the Doctrine and Covenants. To shut down inquiry because “we don’t need to know about that” is not only bad doctrine, it is a rejection of what the Restoration was intended to bestow on us.

Of all the people on earth, Latter-day Saints ought to be the most open, most inquisitive, and most interesting people of all. We should be creative, and filled with new ideas and thought. Our church meetings were once places where exciting and interesting gospel material was openly discussed.

When our time is spent discouraging inquiries, asserting we have no business knowing about our history, and shutting minds, we run open the door for a repeat of the Dark Ages. It will be locally confined to the dogmatic and intolerant believers in the most reactionary form of Mormonism; the brand utilized by the correlating of materials. Ideas are impossible to control, but the attempt will discourage and alienate the very best minds we have among us.

Differing views are not evil. Skepticism is not vile. An honest soul struggling with our faith deserves the compassion and kindness of being allowed to express themselves without feeling like something is wrong with them. All the useful questions raised should be considered, studied and answers should be sought. We need to have the confidence to believe there are answers. Even if we haven’t discovered them yet, there are still answers. And those answers can include information that requires us to rework our understanding.

Charity flows both ways: from telling too much without preparation, to hiding information from those who are ready to hear more truth. Charity also requires us to accept and fellowship with people who are scattered along a broad spectrum, from immature faith to mature understanding. How often could we benefit from hearing from others about issues which they have struggled to understand, but who remain silent because they fear our reaction?

False Spirits

Whenever there is an increase in spiritual manifestations, there is always an increase in both true and false spiritual phenomena. You do not get one without the other.

In Kirtland, new converts who were overzealous to participate in the new heavenly manifestations coming as a result of Joseph Smith’s claims, opened themselves up to receiving influences they could not understand, and did not test for truthfulness. They were so delighted to have any kind of experience, they trusted anything “spiritual” was from God. As a result, there were many undignified things, degrading conduct, foolish behavior and evil influences which crept in among the saints. Joseph received a revelation in May 1831 concerning this troubling development. In it the Lord cautioned there were “many false spirits deceiving the world.” (D&C 50: 2.) That Satan wanted to overthrow what the Lord was doing. (D&C 50: 3.) The presence of hypocrites and of people harboring secret sins and abominations caused false claims to be accepted. (D&C 50: 4, 6-7.) It is required for all people to proceed in truth and in righteousness (D&C 50: 9) if they are going to avoid deception. Meaning that unrepentant and unforgiven men will not be able to distinguish between a true and a false spirit.

All spiritual gifts, including distinguishing between true and false spirits, requires the Holy Ghost, given through obedience to the truth, which allows a person to distinguish between truth and error. (D&C 50: 17-23.) The truth is like light, and when you follow the light of truth it grows inside you until you have a “perfect day” in which there is no more darkness,but everything is illuminated by the light of the spirit within you. (D&C 50: 24.)

The revelation clarifies that a preacher of truth will become only a servant. He will not claim greatness, but will seek only to give truth; as a result of which false spirits will be subject to him. (D&C 50: 26-27.) But this only comes as a result of repenting of all sin, because the light of a perfect day cannot arise when men harbor evil desires and inappropriate ambitions within their hearts. (D&C 50: 28-29.) Truth will not leave you confused, but will enlighten your understanding. (D&C 50: 31.)

From this you can see how necessary it is for each of us to continually repent, conduct our lives in conformity with such truth as you presently understand, and avoid deliberate wrongdoing in order to be able to distinguish between a true and a false spirit. You must attract light. It is attracted by obedience to such light as you already have. When you proceed forward using the light you already possess to attract more light it will grow in one, consistent and truthful manner from a lesser to a greater light. All of it conforming to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Ambition in spiritual gifts leads to acceptance of evil influences. As part of the same problem in Kirtland, in September of the previous year, Hiram Page wanted to be like Joseph, and was able to attract a deceiving spirit to communicate with him through a seer stone. But the commandments he received were designed to lead him into error. (D&C 28: 11.)

Truth will always testify of Christ and lead to repentance. It will lead you to do good, not evil. To serve God and not follow men. To repent and forsake darkness which appeals to the carnal mind. (See Moroni 7: 12-19.)

Just because you have a “spiritual experience” you cannot trust it will invariably be from God. True spirits will:
-Testify of Christ.
-Lead to repentance.
-Be consistent with existing scripture.
-Lead you to be submissive to authority in the church.
-Edify and enlighten your mind.
-Be understandable and not cause confusion.
-Cause light to grow within you.
-Turn you toward Christ, not men.
-Never cause pride.
-Make you a better servant.
-Increase your love of your fellow man.
-Clothe you with charity for the failings of others.
-Conform to the true whisperings of the Holy Ghost you previously have received.
-Leave you humble and grateful for God’s condescension.
-Make you want to bring others to the light.
-Be grounded in love toward God and all mankind.
-Lead you to rejoice.

False spirits will:
-Deny Christ.
-Cause pride.
-Make you believe you are better because of the experience.
-Contradict the scriptures.
-Appeal to carnality and self-indulgence.
-Lead to rebellion against the church’s right to administer ordinances.
-Cause confusion.
-Lead to ambition to control others.
-Make you intolerant of others’ failings.
-Seek self fulfillment rather than service.
-Appeal to your vanity and assure you that you are a great person.
-Bring darkness.
-Repulse the Holy Ghost.
-Prevent you from repenting and forsaking sins.
-Interfere with serving others.
-Focus on yourself rather than the needs of others.

Do not think all spiritual experiences can be trusted. There is no difference between the activities of deceiving spirits today and those in Kirtland, as well as those in the New Testament times. If you follow the Lord you must still test the spirits and only follow those which point to Christ. (1 John 4: 1.) Even Joseph Smith had to ask God about some of the phenomena going on in Kirtland before he knew which were of God and which were deceiving.

Charity in Teaching

It is both unkind and ineffective to teach truths to those who are unprepared to understand them. A person who has learned and accepted a truth has an obligation to be as kind and patient with those she explains it to as the Lord was in bringing her to the understanding she was given.
You never want someone to reject truth. But if you’re going to teach something that hasn’t been understood before, you have an obligation to make the matter clear. You should prepare the the audience by laying a foundation using existing scripture, teachings and knowledge to show how the new concept fits into the existing framework. Just declaring something without a foundation to support it often offends instead of enlightens. It alienates rather than invites.
I’m somewhat concerned about those who try to get an understanding of what I’ve taught, but who haven’t read what I’ve written. In the material, I walk through existing concepts, accepted doctrines, recognized scripture, and language of Joseph Smith to first lay the foundation. Much of that may be familiar; some of it may be surprising, but I take the time to lay it out. Then, after clearing the path to the next ideas, using the existing body of recognized material, I go forward with something that may be new, or difficult, or challenging.
The book I am working on right now will introduce some important information that most people are unfamiliar with. But it will walk through, in the same patient way, building the foundation from which the conclusions are inevitable, and fit it into the framework of all that is known already. I know there are those who are unkind, impatient, or who don’t care about the audience. They will want to blurt out the conclusions, and only move quickly to the startling points. That is inevitable, I suppose. But anyone who does that is neither a good teacher, nor are they kind to their audience. They don’t care if someone rejects truth. They just want to be involved in the sensational, the surprising and the titillating.
Anyone who is going to teach has an obligation to bring along, in a kindly way, those they seek to reclaim from error. That’s how Joseph put it. If you think you have some truth and want to remove an error, you have an obligation to proceed in a proper and affectionate manner to reclaim them. (JS-H 1: 28.)  When a new truth is introduced in a harsh, challenging, unkind way it will be disturbing, upsetting and alienating. Such a person is not a teacher, but instead an enemy to the truth. They make it hard for people to find their way back to God. It is wrong.
True teachers will always adapt to their audience and show kindness and patience to those they teach. When they are called upon by the spirit to rebuke with sharpness, they will afterwards show an increase of love, to make it possible to accept the inspired rebuke. (D&C 121: 43-44.) They want to bring people to a position where truth spreads, is accepted, and all can rejoice in the new light and knowledge shared between them.
This is not to say that all truth a person has should be always be shared. Unless the right circumstances arise, with a properly prepared student to instruct, some kinds of knowledge cannot be shared. But to the extent something is appropriate for instruction, the lesson should be adapted to the capacity and preparation of the audience. Some material may be appropriate with one person that would be inappropriate for another. Until an audience has first been taught basic information, they are unprepared to hear something further. We don’t discuss some things with investigators, but leave it until later for them to be taught. It takes about four years for a convert to receive the basics of the church. It takes years before some information can be put into context. Rushing to expose people to information is not only hasty, but oftentimes destructive. If you intend to be a teacher, and not an enemy to someone’s salvation, you should only proceed in the appropriate way, using kindness, meekness, gentleness, pure knowledge and love unfeigned. (D&C 121: 41-42.) Not haste, shock, surprise and ambush.

Provo Tabernacle

The destruction of the Provo Tabernacle by the fire last night makes me mourn.  I heard President Kimball speak there.  We had some of our student Stake Conferences there.  Later I attended the funeral of Rex Lee, the Dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School while I attended.  I also attended Hugh Nibley’s funeral there.  It was hallowed ground because of those memories. 

I assume it was arson, because of so many recent fires in LDS owned buildings.  Seems a foolish gesture, even if you hate the Church.  Nothing important is ever accomplished by destroying the creative labors of others.  If someone hates the Church, perhaps they ought to go build up their own.  There is no equivalency made by tearing down.  A person may be able to burn a building, but it does not make them any more important or great.  A man may have shot John Lennon, but that did not alter the killer’s importance.  It merely made his insignificance more public.

There are two great forces at work.  One is entropy.  Everything is getting colder, darker, and dissolving.  This force is unrelenting, and can be found everywhere in the physical world.  Opposing it, however, is something which is creative, renewing, and equally unrelenting.  I believe this force which renews life, introduces new energy and forms new systems to be God’s work.  It is, in a word, love.  Or, in the vernacular of the scriptures, it is charity.

When the labors of hundreds have been assembled to create a place of worship, a thing of beauty and a refuge for Saints, that act of charity will endure beyond any subsequent act of vandalism.  It cannot be lessened; though it may be broken or burned.  The testimony of sacrifice establishes an enduring legacy.

I hope the Tabernacle will be rebuilt.  I hope also the memory of the original will not fade from those who went there for such events as Brother Nibley’s funeral, Dean Lee’s funeral, and President Kimball’s address. 

2 Nephi 33: 7-9

2 Nephi 33: 7-9:

“I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat. I have charity for the Jew– I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came.  I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.”
It is necessary to read all three verses to see what Nephi is saying. What distinctions does he make? Is his charity to his people unequivocal? Is his charity to the Jews unequivocal? Is his charity to the gentiles equivocal? Why?
Does the condition that appears in the final verse apply to the preceding group (gentiles) or to all three groups? How do the remarks made by Nephi in the prior verses we have looked at modify or explain which group the final limitation should be applied?
What has Nephi foreseen or said to suggest he has hope for his own people? What has he done to seek charity by his consecrated petitions for his own people? What has he said about the future inheritance of the covenant blessings for both his people and the Jews?
On the other hand, how little promise has he shown for the gentiles?  How conditional are their latter-day rights? How much failure has been prophesied regarding the gentiles? 
Since we’ve been discussing this for months, I am not going to repeat it. You can look to see the scope of Nephi’s declarations for his people, for the Jews and for the gentiles. After you’ve done that, it becomes plain that Nephi has:
Charity for his people.
Charity for the Jews, from whence he came.
Charity for the Gentiles, but he cannot hope for the gentiles except they shall be reconciled to Christ, enter into the narrow gate, walk in the strait path, and continue to do so until the end of the day of probation.
We are reminded again of the Savior’s own prophecy of the failure of the gentiles. (3 Nephi 16: 10.) We are reminded of the Lord’s promise to take the fullness from us in 1841 if we did not complete the construction of the Nauvoo Temple within the allotted time given. (D&C 124: 32.) If we failed, we would be rejected. We did not complete the Nauvoo Temple in the three and a half years allotted after that revelation while Joseph was alive. Then Joseph was taken, much like Moses was taken.  (D&C 84:25.) What the Lord threatened we would lose permanently at the end of our appointment was the fullness of the priesthood, which He had already removed from us in 1841. (D&C 124: 28.) So the gentiles sit in a precarious position indeed.
You must answer for yourself the questions posed by Nephi’s teaching:
-Have we been reconciled to Christ?
-Have we entered into the narrow gate?
-Do we walk in the strait path?
-If so, have we done so as a people until the end of our days of probation?
To be able to restore again that which we lost before 1841 would require someone truly mighty in Spirit. Fortunately, we have been promised that lifeline will be extended to us again at some point. (D&C 85: 7.) However even he will not be able to help a gentile who has not been diligent having their name written in the book of the law of God.
The mothers who minister to their children in patience and love will undoubtedly be among those whom the Lord will remember in that day.  The first parable, The Busy Young Man, is about those little acts through which we find our Lord. The Weathered Tree is about the enduring power of a mother’s love, and how like the Lord’s own sacrifice, this often under appreciated calling has been and continues to be.
Mothers oftentimes do not take time to study because they are too busy engaged in the actual work of charity, love and service. Some may not be able to construct a scripture-based explanation or exposition, but they recognize truth by the light acquired within by their fidelity to the Lord’s system of conferring light and truth.
I have been far more impressed with mothers in Zion than with the tattered remains of what is now called Zion by the gentiles. The pride and foolish traditions which claim authority while lamenting the lack of power are the expected results of the latter-day gentile stewardship according to Nephi.

The good news, and the thing we should rejoice over, is that Nephi does
extend to us gentiles an opportunity to be saved. All we must do to join in the blessings is to:

-Be reconciled to Christ.
-Enter into the narrow gate.
-Walk in the strait path.
-Endure to the end of our days of probation.
So we do have a choice. No matter what failings have occurred or things we lack.
It was Lifehouse who sang an anthem to yearning:
Desperate for changing,
starving for truth,

Letting go of all I’ve held onto,
I’m standing here until you make me move
I’m hanging by a moment here with you

Forgetting all I’m lacking
Completely incomplete
I’ll take your invitation
You take all of me..
I like that song. It is strangely applicable to the condition we find ourselves. But our yearning of course ought to be for the Redeemer who alone can save us.

2 Nephi 33: 4

“And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.”
Nephi makes a practical application and provides us with an example of his teaching of “consecration.” He knows the Lord God will “consecrate” his “prayers for the gain of [Nephi’s] people.” Notice that the benefit of that consecration is not for the welfare of Nephi’s soul, but the welfare of others. Once again Nephi follows his teaching, and then elevates the purpose from “the welfare of [his own] soul” to the welfare of others. (2 Nephi 32: 9.) His concerns are selfless, sacrificial and intercessory. He has become a man of charity and full of love for others. These whom he calls his “beloved brethren” and his “people” are, in fact, those who will destroy and supplant his own descendants. Although a “mixture” of his seed will be there, these people for whom he is consecrating his petitions to God are the Lamanite victors over his posterity. If you have read Beloved Enos you will see the elements of redemption playing out in Nephi’s words similar to how they play out in Enos’ words. Charity is the end result of this consecrated life.
Nephi’s words were “written in weakness” but he knows the Lord God will make them “strong unto them.” Who is “them?” How does the Lord God make “words strong” to someone? What power communicates the strength of Nephi’s words?
What does Nephi mean by “it persuadeth them to do good?” Why is persuading to do good part of the way to recognize words from God?
What does Nephi mean “it maketh known unto them of their fathers?”  Which “fathers?” Does the reference to “their fathers” help you identify who “them” is referring to?
Why do words which will become strong always focus upon “Jesus, and persuade to believe in Him?” Can words which speak of something else, or other programs, initiatives, organizations and events ever “become strong?” Must the message focus upon Christ before it is possible for it to “become strong?”
Why must you “endure to the end, which is eternal life?” What end?  We’ve asked that before, but not answered it. How long must the enduring last, if it is to result in “eternal life?” Will it be a great deal after this life before you have learned enough to be saved? Will you need to endure then, as now, for eternal life to be yours?
What else were you going to do after this life? Planning to play a harp and sit on a cloud somewhere with Captain Stormfield? Or were you planning to be engaged in a good cause, enduring to the end of all time and all eternity, worlds without end? 

We encounter so much doctrine in Nephi’s writing. It is almost impossible to understand this writer-prophet without some effort to learn the doctrine ourselves. Perhaps we de-emphasize doctrine at the peril of losing the very message Nephi wrote.

2 Nephi 33: 3

“But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.”
Nephi’s single-minded focus was life-long. Now, as he writes advanced in age, with a retrospective knowledge, and prophetic foreknowledge of revelation, he confirms what he has written is “of great worth.” When a prophet like Nephi appraises the work as “of great worth,” it is important to realize that your disagreement with the assessment is a reflection on you, not him. It is a reflection of your own level of understanding rather than on the work itself.
Are Nephi’s two books “of great worth” to you? Why? Can you articulate the reasons they have this “great worth” in everything you think and do in your daily life? How have they changed you? If there is nothing you can point to of value, then perhaps you have not yet found the “great worth” Nephi believed his writing to hold.
Why “especially unto [Nephi’s] people?” Who are Nephi’s “people?” Why would they be more valuable to them? Why would they have a special value to them, above the value to the gentiles?
When Nephi says he “prays continually for them,” who is the group he identifies as “them?” Why does he pray for “them?”
Why does Nephi cry into his pillow at night because of “them?” Who are they and what did Nephi know would be the end of “them?” (See 1 Nephi 12: 19; 1 Nephi 15: 5.)
Nephi knew his cries to the Lord would not go unheard. He knew the Lord would keep a covenant made with Nephi concerning “them.” (1 Nephi 13: 30.) The remnant of Nephi’s seed would not be utterly destroyed. Nevertheless, the future destruction would be near absolute, leaving only a remnant.
Despite this foreknowledge, Nephi nevertheless reports he made it a practice to nightly “cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.”
Nephi kept faith in the face of certain destruction of his descendants.  Hope in the face of looming apostasy by his seed. Charity toward those who would reject the Lord.
He has ceased to be exclusively a prophet, and has risen to the role of intercessor and advocate for the unworthy. He has become covenantal father, and presiding Patriarch over a lineage whose redemption will come through his covenant with the Father. He has joined the ranks of the “fathers” toward whom hearts must turn in order to avoid cursing at the Lord’s return. (Malachi 4: 6.)

The circle has closed and the eternal round is completed. Nephi has godly feelings and godly empathy for a doomed posterity. We behold at last the veil removed. We see such nobility of character, and greatness of soul that we are compelled to accept his role as teacher and ruler. He has taught righteousness all his days. Though his older brothers refused to acknowledge or accept him, we should not. His parting message suggests, however, that more of those who will read his record have the same spirit as Laman and Lemuel than will have the necessary spirit to recognize and “esteem of great worth” what he has provided to us.

It is almost too great to take in for the few who are the humble followers of Christ. However, they can avoid being led into error by recognizing in Nephi the teacher and ruler who was sent to deliver a message of salvation to a doomed people. For those who now live under the same prophetic doom, (3 Nephi 16: 15; 3 Nephi 20: 16; 3 Nephi 21: 12) Nephi represents a lifeline offered to those humble enough to accept his message. They will gladly recognize their plight, awake and arise and become people of prayer.

2 Nephi 31: 19-20

2 Nephi 31: 19-20:
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.  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. in him,  

Once on the narrow path, are you done? Have you “arrived?” Is there “rest?”

No, you are on the path, but you cannot turn back. If you even look back, you risk moving on an uneven path. (Luke 9: 62.)

You could not get this far if you hadn’t followed “the word of Christ” and therefore you can only continue by following the word of Christ along the journey.

Your path is not just based on Christ’s words, but also “with unshaken faith in Him.” What is “unshaken faith?”

What does it mean to rely “wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save?” Can you take any pride in what you have done? Can you boast of something about yourself? (Mosiah 2: 22-25.)

What does it mean to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ?” How would “steadfastness” be lived?

What is a “perfect brightness of hope?” I’ve defined that kind of “hope” in Eighteen Verses.

How does any person come into possession of “a love of God and of all men?” Would that come from within, or as a gift from God? Moroni prayed for the gentiles to receive grace that they might obtain charity. (Ether 12: 36.) The Lord replied that if the gentiles lack charity it would not cause any loss to Moroni, for he was saved. (Ether 12: 37.) [Once again reflecting the pessimism which the latter-day gentiles are consistently viewed by the Book of Mormon.]

Why “press forward?” 

What does it mean for us to be “feasting upon the word of Christ?” Is “feasting” something more than participating in a gospel doctrine class discussion once a week? What would it require for you to “feast” upon the “word of Christ?” Is scripture study alone enough?  Would you need to receive anything directly from Him to be included in the “feast?” How would that be obtained?

Did you notice once again we are reminded we must “endure to the end?” Once again, you must determine how “enduring” is to be accomplished, and what “enduring” will require.

If, however, you do these things then “behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” Notice the promise of eternal life comes from the office of “the Father.” It is because this final step comes from the authority to make you a son. His office is the only one which can declare “this day have I begotten thee.” (Psalms 2: 7.)

Alma 13: 29

Alma 13: 29:

“Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.”

Here you have faith, hope and charity (or love). You only have a fraction of the understanding of what faith in the Lord means until you have done as Alma is explaining here. True “faith” which is a principle of power, is acquired by the method Alma is preaching.

Hope that one can receive eternal life is not the vague optimism that it might happen – it is a certitude. You have the promise. You know you will have eternal life. You haven’t died and entered into the resurrected state yet. Between the time of the promise and the time you leave this sphere, you have hope. (The way it is used here is defined in Eighteen Verses.)

When God has promised you eternal life then you have “the love of God always in your heart.” It is there through the indelible promise He has made. He has changed your status. He has declared through His own voice what great thing you have become. Therefore it is by knowledge alone that such love resides in the heart of man.

This life will end. But you will be raised up. You know when you are lifted up in the last day it will be the power of God that raises you.  Such power as God employs to lift a man up confers upon such a person eternal life. The promise alone is a power, conferring the right to lay hold on eternal life when the moment comes. No power in earth or hell can rescind God’s word.  (D&C 1: 38.)  It cannot be done. Therefore, you have knowledge that you will not only be raised from the dead, but “lifted up” as well.  Powers, principalities, dominions, exaltations are all promised as yours.

This is how you attain to “rest.” It is the “rest of the Lord” as soon as the promise is made by Him. It is His rest when you inherit it in the last day. The words of the promise are enough to guarantee the inheritance. Therefore once the promise is made it is true enough that you have entered into the rest of the Lord. However, until you depart this life, you remain subject to the difficulties of mortality.  Graduation is assured, but you must tarry for a little while here.
As one possessing this hope, being filled with faith, hope and charity, it becomes your responsibility to raise up others. Hence the ministry of Alma, and Alma’s exposition on the ministry of Melchizedek. God does send true messengers. They can lead you in the way of life and salvation.

Alma 13:27

“And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;”

This is the reality of those who hold this holy order. They feel absolute charity toward others. It causes them “great anxiety even unto pain” to consider how others might be lost. This was exactly the same charity that motivated the born-again sons of Mosiah to perform their missionary labors at great personal peril. (Mosiah 28: 3.)
When you hear such a man after this order speaking in plain, even blunt words, it is not because they are unkind.  It is not because they are uncharitable or brash. It is because they are filled with care, concern, and longing to share eternal life with those who would otherwise be lost.
Look at his words. What does it mean that Alma’s motivation now comes from “the inmost part of my heart?”  How is it possible that Alma can have such concern that it causes him “great anxiety even unto pain?” Why does he long so for others to “hearken unto his words?”
Is this motivation for Alma the same as he described Melchizedek having?
Is the plea to “cast off your sins” the same plea which Melchizedek made to his people?
If this is the plea of both Melchizedek and Alma, and it is a burden which causes pain for fear that the mission would fail, where do we find such souls today crying repentance?  Are they among us?  Do we have ministers using the words of angels, declaring a message from heaven, who suffer anxiety and pain at the thought we will not repent?
Are you one of them?
If you are not, then why procrastinate?  Why not also join in the process? All that is required is repentance to make yourself clean, followed by keeping the word of God until you entertain angels, receive your assignment, and having been commissioned to then proclaim repentance to others.
Alma is inviting people to join the order after the Son of God, becoming thereby sons of God themselves. This is the great message of the Book of Mormon. I’ve discussed in six books the mysteries of godliness, using primarily the Book of Mormon as the scriptural source to explain these doctrines. It is the most correct book we have to set out these doctrines and inform us of the process. It is interesting how little of that message we’ve uncovered as yet.
So let us proceed…..

Broken souls

I’m hoping to solve Ben’s perplexity (raised in a recent comment), and give all those who come here something to reflect on at the same time.
There are those who are kept from active church attendance because they have read something about history or doctrine which has alarmed and/or discouraged them. There are those who, because of their circumstances, are embarrassed to come to church. There are those who are poor and ashamed, or they are living with the heavy burden of sin and choose to stay away from our meetings. Perhaps they suffer from depression or anxiety, have addictions and feel unclean and unworthy.  
I have home taught or spent time with people with all of these issues, concerns and experiences, and more.  They stay away because they do not feel welcome among us.  Many feel judged, some feel like they just can’t abide hypocrisy, some are hurting and the church makes their hurt worse.
From the time I joined the church until today, I look for these people.  I volunteer to go and visit with them in every ward I have attended, in every stake where I have served, and across the Mission when missionaries have asked me to come help teach.  I was honored just a few days ago to meet with a man and his wife who are inactive, but who have a towering understanding of the church, gospel, its history, the scriptures and doctrine.  They have figured out a great deal more than either their bishop or stake president. As a result, I think the local church authorities are somewhat intimidated by their understanding, and the leaders cannot answer their questions.  It was, for me, a joyful visit and I hope to return again and talk with this wonderful Latter-day Saint couple soon.
I have met with people whose son committed suicide while attending a church-owned university because he was so lonely and isolated that his last desperate act was intended to end his life and rebuke those who had dismissed his pain.  I loved these people who spoke with me about their son’s life and death.  They possessed a sensitivity to the feelings of others which can only be purchased at the price of enduring great personal pain.
I have close friends who struggle with addictions.  Some of these people struggle with things so haunting, so terrible a force in their lives that rising each day to face the coming fight takes greater courage than I can even imagine.  They are acting in faith at every waking breath, as they fight against a foe I do not comprehend and could not face.
I have helped women whose husbands are esteemed as church leaders, but the husbands’ private actions are hellish and abusive.  Women who have nowhere to turn, because their husband IS the leader with jurisdiction over them.  No one will believe them because their “righteous” husband says they have mental or emotional illnesses. These women somehow manage to continue to serve their children and remain steadfast despite the hell they find themselves in.
It is not possible to set out all the different ways wherein the men and women I have met struggle.  It is a great privilege to know these people.  People whose insight into life and difficulties is far greater than I can begin to comprehend.  People whose strength is not even recognized, because others are too busy dismissing, belittling or judging them as “a thing of naught.”  (2 Ne. 28: 16.)
I have marveled at how very much these broken souls, these discouraged people, these victims of our judgments who we have discarded or neglected are the very ones with whom I feel the Lord’s presence and love as I have the honor of meeting and talking with them about the Gospel.  These are the ones He loves the most.  These are the ones with whom He associated during His ministry.  He associates there, still.
We have driven many of them away from activity in the church because of how we behave.  In turn, the Spirit does not dwell with many of the “righteous” and proud active Latter-day Saints because hearts have not been broken nor spirits made contrite.  We are made to think God favors us because we have worldly successes. We prosper. It is the successful, the financially well-to-do, the educated, the bank president, the lawyer and doctor whom we hold up as the model of a true Saint.  Read the resumes of those who are called to lead the stakes and missions of the church in each week’s Church News.  We draw from a very narrow social gene-pool to find those who serve. They come from among those who have the financial resources in place to spare the time it takes to serve. In the process we get a ‘Gospel of Success’ mentality, right out of one segment of the Evangelical movement.
I am NOT saying that nothing good can come from the Stanford Business School.  I am NOT saying bankers are damned (though they are in truth damnable).  I am not talking about them.  I am talking instead about those broken souls whom I know the Lord loves, but who are not among us because of our own pride and haughty attitudes.
If we were to flood the wards of Zion with those whose hearts are broken, who mourn because of issues that weigh heavy upon them, and who feel that there is nothing in the church for them, but who look to Christ to lift them from their torment, we would be enriched by their homecoming.  In much the same way as the Prodigal was worthy of a feast, but the resentful but faithful son who stayed behind was not, so also are the riches of eternity reserved for the poor, downtrodden and broken hearted.

We are the poorer because of their absence.  Our wards are not informed by hearing of their dilemmas and struggles.  We are not what we could be if we were to make such people welcome – throwing our arms open to greet them.  We do not hear their struggle to keep a testimony after learning about some serious failing of a past leader.  We are not informed, as we should be, in our meetings and discussions. 

This is a lamentation, and not an explanation.  This is not the fullness of the subject, but merely a hint of what I know displeases the Lord about us.  It is not my responsibility to define fully the Lord’s displeasure with us at the moment.  I can, however, assure you He is not pleased.  Some of what we think ourselves best for doing is not what He would want us to take pride in.  Our Lord’s heart is broken still.  His ways are higher than ours because He values the least more than do we.

I cannot say more.  But I am left amazed at the hardness of the hearts of this generation who claim they are the Lord’s.  Many, many will be told by Him to depart from His presence at the time of Judgment because they never knew Him.  They speak today in His name, yet they know Him not.  It would be better for them to not speak at all, than to toss about His name as the author of foolish, vain, proud and evil notions while claiming He agrees with such things.

Fast and Testimony

In our ward yesterday we heard testimonies from ward members who rarely speak.  It was delightful.  One of the best testimony meetings I can recall.  One fellow who spoke was so moved by what he was telling us that he had to choke back tears.  His elderly mother has Alzheimer’s disease and he could not be certain what was getting through to her.  She responded to him touching her hand, rubbing her back, and whispering to her during his last visit.  His comments focused on charity toward others, and the great example he pointed to was the  group responsible for caring for the people at the facility where his mother was located.  They were primarily Hispanic.  They labored with smiles on their faces and showed such genuine care for the people that he had to thank someone as part of his last visit.  He spoke with a woman working there, and thanked her and the whole staff through her for the kindness, charity and love they show while providing care for the people they serve.  The woman was grateful for his comments.  His whole testimony was about charity and caring for others.  It was quite moving, and a reminder again of how many opportunities there are to provide service to others.

Another fellow spoke about his baptism, long ago in the South.  He was baptized in a “muddy stream” when he was young, and he can remember how cold it was on that day.  It was the first time my children had heard him speak, although we have been in the same ward for nearly two decades.  They all were surprised he had a southern accent.  And they all said they now “really loved the guy” because of what he said and how he said it.  Before they hardly noticed him because he was so very quiet.

What a wonderful thing a ward family is.  There hasn’t been a ward I’ve attended that hasn’t been quirky, diverse, interesting and at times trying.  It’s a good thing we are divided by area and cannot choose where to attend.  We have no choice but to associate with a diverse lot of people.  I think that is healthy.