Book of Mormon Lesson 11
“Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ”
A. Today we will be finishing 2nd Nephi. These are the last words that Nephi writes for his posterity and to us. If you knew that you were writing you last words and that they would be read by you children and posterity and by millions of people, what would you talk about? I thought it was interesting what Nephi chose to write about. He basically goes back to the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel: Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
B. Last week I had one of my patients come in to see me in the IC. About 6 months ago this gentleman’s wife brought him in for a physical. He hadn’t been to a doctor for 30 years, and he was proud of that. He seemed to think that not seeing a doctor meant he was healthy. Well, I did some tests on him, and he had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and emphysema. He smoked 1 ½ packs a day. When I presented him with this information he was incredulous. He just did not believe a word I said. He thought I was making the whole thing up to try to get money out of him. But I finally convinced him, showing him his blood sugar, BP readings, cholesterol readings and pulmonary function tests, that he needed to take medications for these conditions. But he wasn’t happy about it. Last week he came to the IC (once again forced there by his wife) with SOB. His oxygen level was 83%, he had changes on his EKG like he might be having a heart attack. I called the ER and called 911 and got the patient, almost kicking and screaming, into the ambulance. A few hours later the ER physician called me and told me that he had ruled him out for MI (heart attack) but that he wanted to admit him for the lung disease ext, but the patient completely refused. He got him set up with some O2 at home, started him on some steroids and told him to f/u with me in 2-3 days. The next day his wife called in tears. Her husband wouldn’t use the O2, wouldn’t take the medications he was prescribed and was huffing and puffing again. I got him on the phone and he got really mad at me, claiming that all his medical problems were because I was stressing him out and that he refused to see me anymore. I told him that if he didn’t want to see me anymore, to please see someone soon, and that his medical problems were real. He hung up on me. This was a frustrating experience for me. This gentleman will probably die in the next year because of his stubbornness. I can see the same feelings of frustration in Nephi’s last words to his people, trying to convince them about the “straight and narrow path.”
II. Nephi speaks in plainess.
A. Read 2 Nephi 31:1-3. What does Nephi mean here in vs 3, that “his soul delighteth in plainness”. Remember, he has just gone through a bunch of chapters of Isaiah, which was not very plain. What is plain to Nephi is not necessarily plain to his audience. Why is this?
B. Read 2 Nephi 32:4-5. (I think I am going to use this as an excuse whenever something in class isn’t clear - it’s your fault for not having the spirit.) It is by the Holy Ghost that things will be made plain to us.
C. Read 2 Nephi 32:8-9. It is by prayer that we receive understanding of the scriptures and the gospel.
A. Read 2 Nephi 31:4-7. Why was Jesus need to be baptized?
1. To fulfill all righteousness
2. To humble Himself before the Father.
3. To show complete obedience to the Father.
4. Read 2 Nephi 31:8 - Did Christ himself need to be baptized in order to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost?
5. Read 2 Nephi 31:9 - To set and example for us.
B. We usually think the reason for baptism is for the remission of sins. Apparently this is not the only reason, since Christ, who was without sin, also needed to be baptized.
1. What other purposes are there for being baptized? It says in this chapter that it is necessary for our salvation. It is more than just some aquatic ritual (which reminds me of the Holy Grail: “Listen, strange women lyin’ in pounds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.”)
2. Read 2 Nephi 31:13. A few reasons to be baptized.
a. to witness you are willing to take upon you the name of Christ. What does that mean? Some have asked us, if you think that all the other Christian churches are wrong, and they don’t want to call Mormon’s Christians, why do you insist that you are Christians. Because we are taking upon us the name of Christ.
b. the beautiful imagery of “following your Lord and your Savior down into the water.” Shows we are willing to follow him.
c. To receive the Holy Ghost.
C. Read 2 Nephi 31:14. Speaking with the tongue of Angels. What does this mean?
1. Angel was a messenger. Once we have been baptized and received the Holy Ghost, we are messengers of the Gospel.
2. Read 2 Nephi 33:1.
IV. Straight and Narrow Path.
A. Read 2 Nephi 31:17-21.
1. He is talking about this gait, and straight and narrow path in regards to baptism. Some people have criticized the church for requiring converts to be re-baptized when they join our church. They also think that us doing baptism for the dead is arrogant. But it is because of these scriptures. There is only one way to God, by baptism by those who have the authority.
B. In an article in the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah, on Feb 8, 2003, Richard N. Ostling reviewed the newest edition of the encyclopedia of American Religion y J. Gordon Melton. There are 2,630 US and Canadian Churches and faith groups described in the edition. In his article, Ostling observes: “There’s a denomination for practically everyone. If the Episcopal church won’t do, worshipers can move leftward into the Metaphysical Episcopal Church or Free Episcopal Church, or rightward into dozens of breakaways like the Anglican Mission in America. Does Unitarianism seem too conventional? The denomination offers a subgroup of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. Moving further from the mainstream, there’s always the Church of God Anonymous, the Nudist Christian Church of the Blessed Virgin Jesus or the Only Fair Religion.”
1. I don’t quote this article to make light of other’s faiths, but to make a point that this does not sound like “one gate” or a “straight and narrow path.”
V. Feasting upon the Word of Christ.
A. In 2 Nephi 32:20 it says we should, “feast upon the word of Christ.” What does this mean?
1. A few years ago when Gordon B. Hinkley challenged the church to read the whole Book of Mormon in a year, I did it. But I have to admit that I did not “feast upon” the Book of Mormon. I read it to get through it, and didn’t get much out of it. In fact, I was a little disappointed in my experience. I was not even really looking forward to teaching the BoM this year. But as I have read it this year, planning on teaching it, it has forced me to ponder and pray about what I have read, and read it over and over again. I have feasted on BoM and my experience has been completely different from when I was just trying to follow the letter of the law so I could say that I was following the prophet.
VI. “I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night.”
A. Read 2 Nephi 33:3.
B. Read 2 Nephi 32:7
C. Hugh Nibley once said that the Book of Mormon was written by a bunch of worried men. I’d never thought of that before, but these scriptures exemplify that well. What was Nephi worried about? Why did he cry at night?
D. A few things these verses got me thinking about. First, that I don’t worry about you guys as much as Nephi worried about the people he was teaching. I don’t cry at night worrying that you didn’t understand what I was talking about. Second, being righteous and obedient (like Nephi) does not necessarily guarantee us peace or happiness in this life.
E. This last week I had a friendly but heated exchange on an LDS website with some people. The topic on the blog was the recent study that allegedly showed Utah to be the “most depressed state” in the Union. The people were talking about what is it about Mormonism that makes us so depressed and what the Church should do about it. I spent the time to actually look at the studies. One was the study that showed that Utah was #1 in anti-depressant prescriptions, which I dismissed right away. You can’t tell how depressed a community is by how may prescriptions for anti-depressants the doctors there write. The second study looked at 4 different measures of depression - number adolescents who reported a major depressive episode in the last year, number of adults who had a major depressive episode in the last year, number of adults with a diagnosis of a serious mental illness in the last year and number of days missed from work. Utah was actually number one only in number of adults with a major depressive episode. So I looked at those numbers - Utah had 10% and the national average was 8%. I argued that in a state that is now less than 70% LDS, and where the activity rate is now about 50%, to argue that the extra 2% is all because Utah is full of Mormons was kind of ridiculous. I could just as easily argue that the extra 2% came from non-Mormons who were depressed because they had to live around Mormons or Jack-Mormons who were depressed because they had to drink watered down Utah beer. But then someone came back and said, “well why isn’t Utah the least depressed state then.” I said, I have no idea, but this study didn’t address that. But just for the sake of argument, lets say that extra 2% depression rate in Utah is all from active Mormons. Does that hurt your testimony? Then I started thinking, is there anywhere in the scriptures where it says that you are guaranteed happiness if you follow the gospel. I looked under happiness in the topical guide, and almost every scripture talked about happiness in the next life. Like Malcom X, they are talking about “pie in the sky.” (Quoting Monty Python and Malcom X in one lesson might get me fired.) We often quote the scripture Alma 41:10 that says “wickedness never was happiness”, but it does not say the converse is also true “righteousness is always happiness.” Although we say wickedness never was happiness, there are a lot of obviously wicked people out there who are putting on a pretty good act of being happy. Also, this scripture actually is talking about the resurrection. So I got to thinking about the prophets in the scriptures. Very few of them had really happy lives. Moses didn’t. Noah watched almost everyone he knew die. We see here that Nephi had a hard life and was stressed out. Joseph Smith had a very difficult life. President Kimball and Gordon B. Hinkley were pretty happy I think. Does having or living the gospel guarantee us perpetual bliss? I would say that I know having the gospel has protected me from some things that could have made my life much more miserable (drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex ext). But the righteous have trials also. Knowing what we know may even make us a bit more somber. (Am I bumming anyone out here.) But ultimately we also know that the only true, lasting happiness come through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
A. I testify that the narrow gait and the straight path that leads to Eternal Life with our Heavenly Father is Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentance of our sins, Baptism by one who has the authority, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.