Friday, February 10, 2012

Book of Mormon Precepts "Believe in Me"

The greatest message of the Book of Mormon is the glad news that declares Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. That all men, His lowly creations, may seek Him and find His presence during mortality thereby securing from Him personally redemption from the fall. The Lord Jesus Himself said, "Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me...Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin." (3 Nephi 9: 14,21)

If the precepts of the Book of Mormon have the ability to bring us "near to God" as Joseph Smith taught, it is because the book is full of invitation, testimony, and instruction from, and about, Christ and His redeeming power. Everything needed to show a man how he may seek and find Him and His offered redemption is included. This is the great message and principle we are commanded to "believe" in order that we may come unto Him and receive eternal life. All else falls into the category of "unbelief." The great patriarch leader Lehi taught his sons, "Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered." (2Nephi 2: 6-7)

Recognizing the critical centrality and eternally important nature of the message of the redemption offered through Christ, Lehi testifies, "Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise." (2Nephi 2: 8) The importance of making these things known as Lehi suggests is great enough that the Lord would carefully, over many centuries, personally supervise and direct the writing and composition of the records that would one day comprise the words of the Book of Mormon. It's greatest purpose is, "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—" (Title page of the Book of Mormon)

We can't allow ourselves to focus on unbelief and dwindling or any of the other very important warnings found in the precious Book of Mormon without giving at least equal attention to the happy message of "believe in Christ" found there. The first purpose of the Book of Mormon is to testify and teach of Christ and to instruct how individual people may find Him and come into His presence. The words of the Book of Mormon necessarily provide stern and repeated warnings about unbelief, dwindling, and many other unsavory warnings and prophecies that may be viewed as less than optimistic when they are understood properly. These warnings are a necessary part of the record. Even the warnings and prophecies of failure and predictions of destruction and judgment, if people choose to hear it, have the purpose of calling them to repent and come to Him. 

If one is willing to pay close attention in order to see and understand, the Book of Mormon shows and explains the movement and shifting of the gospel of Christ among various steward groups all the way from beginnings with the Nephites, through and including the Millennium and the reign of Christ. It is one of the overriding purposes of the Book of Mormon to show latter day people the prophetic movement of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its blessings from one group of people to another. A substantial portion of the entire volume of the Book of Mormon is comprised of the prophecies that speak of these things. The prophetic description of the flow of the gospel of Jesus Christ from one steward group to another and yet another is built into the structure of the book in order that the various players in the prophecies in the latter days may be informed and prepared for the prophesied developments. Each one of the various steward groups must learn repentance and receive the knowledge needed  to come unto Him and receive Him. As one group receives heavenly knowledge and the gospel, and prospers, another "dwindles in unbelief." This process repeats itself in the prophecies of the Book of Mormon through the Nephites, to the Gentiles, until the remnant of the Nephite's seed will take final stewardship of the fullness of the gospel to build the New Jerusalem and Zion. (3Nephi  20, 21) 

The movement of stewardship for the gospel of Jesus Christ is to go from the Nephites, to latter day Gentiles. (1Nephi 13: 35-36) The latter day Gentiles will then deliver the gospel message to a remnant of Nepite blood. (1Nephi 13: 38-39) Then finally, the eventual total stewardship of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be assumed by the remnant of the Nephites. (3Nephi 16: 10-11 and 3Nephi 20-21) None of this prophecy that fills so many pages of the Book of Mormon can be properly viewed or understood separately from the message of "Come unto Me and believe in Me." Every aspect of the Book of Mormon narrative is given to lead latter day people to Christ and His redemption. 

When the words of the Book of Mormon speak of "unbelief" and "dwindling," when there are suggestions of failure and disappointment in the conduct of latter day people, even when the Lord warns about destruction and judgments to come, it all has the singular purpose of crying out to the reader to repent and come to Him. There is not one warning given in the book, there is no prophecy of destruction and judgment to come, that cannot be applied unto the blessing of the reader’s soul if one is willing to give heed to the message and repent. Every single warning and judgment pronounced in the Book of Mormon can be avoided even eliminated for the individual soul that is willing to come unto Him. This is the very purpose of such language in the book. 

The Lord repeats the message over and over again in the words of the Book of Mormon, "Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts." (2 Nephi 28: 32) The key contingency in the Lord's message is "if they will repent and come unto me." One cannot sincerely read the words of the Book of Mormon without recognizing the desperation with which the Lord seems to want to be merciful to all.  He would redeem them all if they would just repent and come to Him. Unfortunately, as He said in the verse above, "they will deny me." In another place He said, “And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.” (3Nephi 10: 5)

The message of hope, love, and redemption through Christ the Lord, is the purpose and meaning of the precious Book of Mormon. Its words are not always encouraging for those unwilling to repent and come to Him. But for the repentant soul that is willing, just as it was for Nephi, and Jacob, Enos, and Alma, the later Nephi, the brother of Jared, Mormon, Moroni, and Joseph Smith, he calls through the words of the Book of Mormon for you to come unto Him in order that you may receive Him and be redeemed through His testimony to you. 

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