I cannot even begin to express the places I have been in prayer this morning, as I have sat at my kitchen table alone. The Spirit of the Lord has tutored me, I have felt His peace, and now I must move on for the day.
There is phrase in this chapter that has long left me puzzled as to its placement here. It is a lamentation of the House of Israel found in verse 14:
And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.
The Savior had just healed the multitude of its infirmities and was now about to bless their children in a most profound manner. However, he first makes this jarring lamentation. Today, as I read this, it strikes me as a realization, or a contrasting of two different groups of people and Christ coming to terms with the lack of faith of the house of Israel (those among whom he ministered for so long), when compared to the profound faith now demonstrated by the Nephite gathering. It is not just a lamentation, but also a realization that he had not done things differently and yet these people were much more faithful than the former, for whom he now prayed. Ever engraven upon his palms, those that didn’t have faith sufficient were still remembered by our Lord, even when about to bless those that did have great faith.
Preparation to Receive Further Instruction
The chapter starts with the Savior’s perception that the people had arrived at their physical limit and were not able to learn further. He had been commanded of the Father to deliver a set of instructions to the Nephite people, but was now not able to go further because of the mortal limitations of his hearers.
It is noteworthy that he took their personal well-being into consideration in the execution of the assignment. He wasn’t checking off boxes on a list. He had been commanded of the Father to teach specific things to these people, perceiving that they could not immediately receive his instruction, he gave other instructions, preparatory instructions, for when he would return.
The Savior’s intermediary instructions then are these:
- Go ye unto your homes.
- Ponder upon the things which I have said,.
- Ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand,.
- Prepare your minds for the morrow.
Each of these steps is significant in its order.
Go Ye Unto Your Homes
I was tempted to over look this bit of instruction as merely procedural in nature, but as I ponder it, there is great significance in that he instructed them to get into the environment that would be most conducive to spiritual preparation. He didn’t command them to get to the church house or the temple or anywhere else. He sent them to their homes, a place of refreshing and renewal. Perhaps more importantly, it is a place of intimate communion with closest family members, the smallest most fundamental unity of society where love and nurturing can take place in a why that no other society structure can afford.
Ponder, Ask, and Prepare for the Morrrow
The next two points of pondering and asking the Father for understanding of the things which Jesus taught are complementary to each other. As one takes time to ponder a point of doctrine and then to seek confirmation of that doctrine in prayer, then does the Spirit of God have the substance with which to communicate and affirm truth.
Preparation is not synonymous to pondering and asking, but are complimentary activities.
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.Ezra 7:10 (emphasis added)
Preparation then is requisite to receiving the word of God and being enabled to obey it. How does one prepare to receive the word of God with the intent to obey? Submission, humility, repentance, cultivating the ground to receive good seed.
“And He Did Heal Them Every One”
After giving the large group that was there gathered instructions to prepare for tomorrow, Jesus looks out and is filled with compassion toward this people. He senses that they want Him to stay just a little longer with them.
So he proceeds to heal all manner of physical and mental ailment among the people. He heals:
- the sick
- the lame
- the blind
- the halted
- the maimed
- the leprous
- the withered
- the deaf
- the dumb
- any other form of affliction
What must it have been for any one of those persons individually to have been released from the binding effect of their impaired condition? What burdens had been lifted by those who had been tasked with their care? This very real suffering was removed by the Christ, unconditionally, upon the whole of the gathering.
And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him;Vs. 10 (emphasis added)
“So Great Was the Joy of the Multitude”
Reviewing this account again this morning brings several thoughts to mind.
And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.3 Nephi 12:8
This account moreover stands in the face of the diabolical assumption that man is permanently fallen and can achieve to no good thing in this life. This is the proof that there are hopes and dreams of things greater than this world that should be longed for.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.Hebrews 11:13-14,16
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
…But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
“Behold, Your Little Ones”
There are two things that stand out to me in this reading. After healing the sick, he turns his attentions to the children. Both are groups that can be overlooked. The children, constitute a special group, entirely defenseless, yet so impressionable and indicative of the future.
So many would oppress childhood, especially for their own personal gain or benefit. There is more to consider here.
The ending of this chapter is a record of the witnesses present. It is a reminder that “we speak of things as they really are” and that the gospel is based upon the testimony of witnesses. What then is faith?
And then there is the topic of the Little Children, of how such are the Kingdom of Heaven. Later in this 3 Nephi account of Christ’s ministry, the children have their tongues loosed so that they can speak, but the words that were spoken, these things were not permitted to be recorded? What where the circumstances at other times when the Savior forbad things to be recorded or published? Why was it allowed to be witnessed in person by the Nephites present, but not permitted to be published?
Now in the second half of chapter 15, the Savior takes pains to say that this people (the Nephite people) were those that Christ said would hear his voice. He repeats this in such a way as to suggest that this was a literal statement of fact. Clarifying the point further, he goes on to explain how the Gentiles would never hear him, but have an opportunity to receive his word through the testimony of others and to receive a witness through the confirmation of the Holy Ghost.
Then after having established the clarity of this point (that there are others that would literally hear him), in chapter 16, the Savior goes on to say that there are yet even others that he must visit and who shall literally hear Him.
The gentiles shall have their chance, but the Gathering of Israel is much bigger than the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles alone. No prophet like President Nelson has emphasized the gathering of Israel. I feel like we are in a significant transition from what once was (the church of the Gentile saints) to what will now be (the church of the Gathering of Israel), all part of this on-going restoration of the Gospel in the latter-days.
Chapter 16, Verse 4 – We ought to pray to know who those other sheep are of whom the Savior also ministered to. The Savior doesn’t say this explicitly, but his words suggest that that was expected action of those at Jerusalem. Then why not of us?
…If it so be that my people at Jerusalem… do not ask… that they may receive a knowledge of you… and also of the other tribes whom they know not of…
The goal of all this, is that the remnant of their seed may also be gathered in.
A couple of additional thoughts and reminders that were inspired of the text: Other sheep that have already heard his voice causes me to contemplate the strength of the Church in other parts of the world presently. I remember the stories of faithful missionaries from the Philippines told by Elder Echohawk in our stake conference the year after my arrival to Missouri.
In the scripture that the Savior quotes twice from the book of John (John 10:16), the Savior states, “…them also I must bring”. The reminder that this is the Lord’s work and he can do his own work sits poignantly in my mind this morning. (See 2 Nephi 27:20-21)
Re-reading chapter 16, the work of the Gentiles in the latter days is the gathering of Israel. The Savior explains that there are others, whom those at Jerusalem failed to inquire of the Lord to learn about. Christ was to go to them so that they could also hear his voice. The record kept here in the Book of Mormon was for the express purpose of helping the Gentiles to understand the scope of their commission in the latter days. These are the descendants of those to home Christ had ministered in very deed. It is recorded in the Book of Momron because he knew that the Book of Mormon would come first to the gentiles.
At the end of the first verse, the Savior gives the promise of being raised up. The footnotes, show that this promise was reiterated by prophets throughout the scriptures, especial in the Book of Mormon and strongly ties obedience to the commandments of the Lord with the first Resurrection.
The next nine verses then offers a clarification on the fulfillment of the law of Moses, and yet future fulfillment of all the prophets had taught. The final crux of all the matter is this: “keep my commandments”. (See verse 10)
See also John 6:35-54
When Christ says to the Nephites, “Old things have passed away, and that all things had become new,” (vs. 2-3) He is guiding them to understand the covenants that he has made, and perhaps even the covenants that he will yet make with us individually.
References to the New and Everlasting covenant found here in these verses state very similar outcomes to that which Christ has here promised: being raised up at the last day.
The new and everlasting covenant is the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which gets restored with every new dispensation.
The Rules of the Game
(a parable) All games have rules of engagement. To play the game you need to learn and follow the rules. Without rules, there is no game.
Life also has rules of engagement. In order to live life, you need to learn the laws and commands of God, who created life. If you cannot play by the commandments of God, there is no life. Life cannot be lived unless we abide by the rules of the Life-giver.
In this simple comparison of persons is the powerful illustration of one absolute reality:
Rains will fall, Floods will come, and winds will blow!
In other words, there will be opposition regardless of your spiritual status in life. However, it is the outcome of such opposition that will primarily effect. To the righteous, hard as the rain and winds may still be, their houses remain standing, and the connection to the foundation has actually been strengthened, reinforced by the reality that the only thing that allowed that house to continue to stand was its foundation. The foundation, its quality and strength, the builders have very little to do with, except in the choosing of it.
To those who choose to build upon anything other than the Rock, the Lord assimilates them to a foolish man. Because they will build, and they will erect great edifices, but without a foundation of the Rock, there will be nothing to sustain it in times of storm. The opulence, the excess, “the loftiness of the branches,” these things will all come crashing down, and so the Savior warns: “great was the fall of it.”
These three verses come to me after a week-long study on false prophets. There is for me a lot to unpack in so few verses. Footnotes are taking me in all directions, but the one thing that is really standing out to me this morning is the final statement of the Savior.
And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.Verse 23 (emphasis added)
The final judgment is placed squarely on the Savior’s knowing me! It is not enough for me to think or believe that I am acquainted with Christ, He has to know me in order for me to be saved! There are multiple scriptures that support this statement. And the big question that I am asking this morning is: How or what do I have to do for Christ to know me?
For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?Mosiah 5:13
So for Christ to know me, I need to serve him. I need to know his will and as far as possible try to understand the thoughts and intent of the Master’s heart.
Mosiah 26 offers a more detailed account of that final judgment. This seems to be a very polarized judgment, which hinges on one simple principle: whether we know Christ or not.
Alma 26:9, Ammon rejoices in the Lamanite converts because of the love that now exists between them, but then also adds this: “For if we had not come up… they would also have become strangers to God.” In other words, Jesus would not have known them in that intimate manner of which we have been discussing here.
In Luke 13, the Savior is reported as having taught the same principle with this slight variation, repeated twice: “I know you not whence ye are.” This is loosely coupled also with the teaching of those who waited for their Lord’s coming. It makes me think of the parable of the ten virgins. Five were ready, five were not. Where were the five that were not prepared? What were they doing there? Why does the location matter?
Perhaps, the better question was where were the five that were prepared? What were they doing there?
And that which fell among thorns… bring no fruit to perfection.Luke 8:14-15 (emphasis added)
But that on the good ground are they, which… bring forth fruit with patience.
There is a fairly healthy tension within me when I read about bringing forth fruit or good works. That tension is between personal refinement and good works. Both are necessary, but when I read the insight about the parable of the sower from Luke’s account, this particular account suggests that the good fruit leans towards personal refinement.
This pertains more to the government of the church, but what principles apply to the family?
- Vs. 19 – “And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed.”
- Vs. 23, 25 & 26 – “For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.”
“And it shall come to pass that when the second trump shall sound then shall they that never knew me come forth and shall stand before me.”
“And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed.”
This features the Savior’s instructions on how to administer the Sacrament, with specific instructions on what to do with those that will not repent.
- Vs. 32 – “Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.”
- Vs. 34 – “And I give you these commandments because of the disputations which have been among you. And blessed are ye if ye have no disputations among you.”
This chapter addresses the rebellion and miraculous redemption by an angel of Alma and the Sons of Mosiah.
- Vs. 14 – “And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.”
To be continued…
The Lord starts this block of teaching with a warning: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Gratefully the Lord gives us a way to discern or judge: by their fruits.
So the question here is: what manner of fruits are we looking for?
Doctrine and Covenants 52:18,34 – A pattern for discerning fruits. Re-reading verse 34 has brought great comfort: “He that is faithful, the same shall be kept and blessed with much fruit.” There is a long term promise here, of posterity and other spiritual blessings that may be received as fruit, if we are patient.
Full Conversion Brings Happiness by Elder Richard G. Scott. This is a relevant talk in so far as it equates conversion with fruit. Conversion is the fruit that results from the practice of faith, repentance, and consistent obedience.
(A new day, and I have asked in prayer to see what I am not seeing.) Fruit has seeds that contain potential for future growth. They are delicious for immediate consumption, but also can be used for future purposes.
I am still asking myself what am I not seeing in these verses. And the very first thing that is expressed in this group of verses is to “beware of false prophets”. Then Christ is giving us a way to discern a false prophet. How do we tell if someone is telling us the truth? Especially of things yet to come?
A footnote on “false prophets” leads us to consider priestcraft, the art of setting oneself up as light unto the world, with the end of obtaining money and fame. Most notable is that they have no interest in the welfare of Zion. For this reason, the Savior warns us to be on our guard, that we do not entertain such.
Another interesting side note from Ezekiel 22, the false prophets of ancient Israel were accused of violating the Sabbath day and mixing the sacred with the profane, treating both as part of the same. This reminder of the value of the Sabbath is important to me this morning.
In these verses, the strait gate is not defined. But Nephi clearly defines it in 2 Nephi 31:17-18, “For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life;”
Two chapters later, Nephi ends his record with these final remarks: “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.”
The strait gate that Christ speaks of is then this two-part package:
- Reconciliation to God (Repentance)
- Entrance into the path of covenants (Starts with baptism, church membership)
The Broad Way to Destruction
A similar verse in Doctrine and Covenants equates destruction with “the deaths”, and also adds: “because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law.” This much wider gate stands in strange contrast to the strait gate.
The Way Which Leadeth unto Life
Life, eternal life, the life that God has, a life shared with God in His order of existence.
The gate and the way are in Christ, and elsewhere Christ even says that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.”
I am trying to reconcile this with the patterns of nature that I find all around me here where I live, because I see great evidence of a kind and generous Creator’s hand. I am trying to understand how to replicate that life in what I see in the world around me.
The footnotes in Matthew are more abundant than in 3 Nephi. This single verse is known as “the golden rule” and is an injunction to kindness. But the wording is such, that the Lord doesn’t just say “be kind,” but rather “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” Use your faculties to judge righteously, and bless others as you would receive a blessing.
One of the first footnotes that I am exploring on this verse is that of Good Works. It strikes me as motivating, both as a entrepreneur and as a good citizen, that the types of work that I employ my time in are the very things that I would want or desire that others would engage in. I love good works, companies that build successful businesses based on ethical principles. That’s so important to me. The golden rule, not the bottom line, should be the predominate variable in all business-making decisions.
Why do we try to separate the very substance of our day-to-day work activities from the principles of truth? We are talking about work, we are talking about how we interact with others, we are talking about how we benefit others with our work. The power is within us to do good work.
Continuing Courtship in Marriage
Another footnote from the Matthew verse directs me to consider this council in the marriage relationship.
Paul counseled: “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband,” (1 Corinitians 7:3). Benevolence isn’t a word we use much any more, but it can be equated with kindness, a reminder that this marriage relationship is the most important one in which to render kindness and good intent to one another.
Then there is the classic injunction in Ephesians where Paul tells the wives to subject themselves to their husbands as we do to Christ within the Church. And then the husbands are told to be as Christ to their wives. I don’t know which is harder counsel to swallow personally, but both place an almost impossible standard for marriage relationships. This is how it must be though: men out to love as Christ loved. Women ought to submit to their husbands as if to Christ. The council is two sides of the same coin, submission or love. Are we not both being asked to conform to a higher law?
The imprint of nature is upon me this morning, realizing that in the creations that so abundantly surround us here in this fertile place, there is also life, and if life then there must be love and giving.
Another footnote has taken me to Proverbs 24. It feels as if my life had been aligned to consider the counsels found herein this morning. I asked myself if I could receive instruction from the creations that are around me? The Spirit of the Lord confirms such a notion. But then I read in Proverbs:
30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;
31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.Proverbs 24:30-32 (emphasis added)
These are the verses that immediately followed the footnote reference. There is instruction in the world around us! But the entirety of the chapter is practically shouting at me this morning. So much truth! Don’t envy the evil. Their end is misery.
“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”
If kindness is the whole purpose and end of the law and the prophets, then I have greatly missed the mark, especially with my family, many a time. Kindness is different than calmness, and denotes calmness towards others. No matter what evil is extended to the individual, returning goodness every where we go.
Do not refrain from teaching the Gospel of Christ to your children. The end goal is conversion, not knowledge. Conversion to what? A gospel of kindness.
There is a brief addendum that I would add this study, found in Matthew 22:40. Here is another instance of where the phrase “the law and the prophets” is used to give emphasis to the importance of the principle being taught. In that context, it was teaching of the two greatest commandments: love God and my fellow man. Kindness is the essence of the same.