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.

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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.

Charity

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.

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