Book of Mormon Lesson 14
"For a Wise Purpose"
A. Today we will be going through the short books of Enos, Jarom, Omni, and the Words of Mormon. These books transition us in history from Lehi’s family, the original colonizing group of the Book of Mormon, to the time of King Benjamin in the Book of Mosiah. This time period is roughly 350 years. So 350 years of Nephite history are summarized here in 9 pages of the Book of Mormon. Do you think we have a complete history here? The United States is only 232 years old. The pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower about 380 years ago. So these 9 pages, from a historical standpoint, are about equivalent to an American History that says, "The pilgrims came, then a lot of other people came, we had some wars, slavery was abolished, we made an atomic bomb, we put a man on the Moon, then George Bush was elected." Keep this in mind when we speculated about Nephite history, culture, geography ext - how little information we actually have about them from the Book of Mormon.
B. We are also finishing the Small Plates of Nephi today. You’ll notice that 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom and Omni are all in the first person. "I Nephi," and "I Enos." The Book of Mosiah starts Mormon’s abridgement. Most of it, until the Books of Mormon and Moroni, are in second person.
C. I want to spend most of the lesson on Enos. I just want to get a few important historical things out of the way from Omni. In Omni we learn about the Nephites finding the people of Zarahemla, who we later learn were descended from people lead by one of the son’s of Zedekiah who escaped the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. We also learn about the group that separated themselves from the other Nephite’s in Zarahemla to try to reclaim the land of Nephi. This is where wicked King Noah and Alma the Elder come from.
D. We will be spending most of our time in the Book of Enos. What I hope do is briefly go through the details of Enos’s prayer and subsequent life, then talk about what we can learn about prayer from the Book of Enos, and then talk about how the Book of Enos is a paradigm for a "good life."
E. Who was Enos? He was the son of Jacob, the grandson of Lehi, and the nephew of Nephi. At the end of the book of Enos, when Enos "began to be old," we learn that "179 years had passed away from the time our father Lehi left Jerusalem." What does this tell us? We know Lehi had Jacob when he was already pretty old. Jacob must have had Enos when he was already old. Enos probably never knew Lehi and only a slight chance that he ever knew Nephi.
II. The Book of Enos
A. Read Enos 1:1-3. What do we learn from these verses? Another lesson about how important it is to teach our children.
1. This probably happened after Jacob had died (although we aren’t told this). Yet his teachings still "sunk deep into my (Enos’s) heart."
2.President Harold B. Lee: "The Lord said that the power was not given to Satan to tempt little children, ‘until they begin to become accountable before me’ (D&C 29:47). This very significant statement follows: ‘That great things may be required at the hand of their fathers’ (D&C 29:48). Now, that means parents. Why is it that the Lord doesn’t permit Satan to tempt a little child until he comes to the age of accountability? It’s in order to give parents their golden opportunity to plant in the hearts of little children those vital things except for which, when that time of accountability comes, they may have waited too long."
3. This is sobering for me because I have very young children. We sometimes think that teaching them the gospel at 3-7 years old is futile. They won’t understand it anyway. We put it off until they’re older. It may be too late.
4. Also, we may not see the fruits of what we teach. The seeds of what we teach may lay dormant in our children’s hearts for years before they bear fruit, as they apparently did in Enos’s case.
B. Read Enos 1:4-6.
1. From these verses, what was the first thing Enos was praying for? Forgiveness of his own sins. "For his own soul."
2. "Each of you," declared Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, "has an eternal calling from which no Church officer has authority to release you. This is a calling given you by our Heavenly Father Himself. In this eternal calling, as with all other callings, you have a stewardship, and ‘it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity.’ This most important stewardship is the glorious responsibility your Father in Heaven has given you to watch over and care for your own soul. At some future day, you and I will each hear the voice of the Lord calling us forward to render an account of our mortal stewardship. This accounting will occur when we are called up to ‘stand before [the Lord] at the great and judgment day’ (2 Ne. 9:22).
C. Read Enos 1:7-8. How did Enos receive forgiveness of his sins? Through his faith in Christ. This is the only way we can be forgiven for our sins.
D. Read Enos 1:9-10. What did Enos pray for next? His people, family, posterity.
1. Just like Lehi after he had partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Life wanted his family to partake of it, Enos wanted his family and posterity to have the same joy he had received.
E. Read Enos 1:11-13. What did Enos pray for next? For the Lamanites. For his enemies.
F. Read Enos 1:14-16. Besides praying for the salvation of the Lamanites, what else is her praying for here? The preservation of the records - the plates of Nephi.
III. The Purpose of Prayer.
A. Perhaps more than any other scripture, the Book of Enos is used as an example of sincere and earnest prayer. After all, he prayed "all the day long" and "when night came (he) did still raise (his) voice high." When I have really wanted something I have attempted an "Enos like prayer", but I usually just end up repeating myself a lot. "Please help me to do well on the MCAT so I can get into medical school. Please, please, please help me do well on this test. I promise I’ll be good if you do. I’ve studied really hard. So please help me to do well on the MCAT." You can only say that so many ways and for so long before you get into vain repetitions.
B. My second missionary companion’s name was Elder Jacobs. He only had 2-3 months left in his mission when I was transferred to his area in McAllen, Tx. We were working hard, had some baptisms lined up for the next month, and he really wanted to finish off his mission there. But then transfer day came and he got a call to transfer to Laredo. That night he told me, "I’m going to have an Enos prayer tonight." So he stayed out in the front room of our apartment and I heard him finally come to bed at about 2:00 AM. The next morning he told me that he thought he had received an answer to his prayer and that he was going to call the mission president and ask if he could stay in McAllen for at least one more month. So he did, and the mission president said no, and he went to Laredo the next day.
C. When we really want something, do we sometimes pray trying to "talk God into it"?
1. In Romans 8:26-27 it says, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
2. In the movie Shadow Lands, Anthony Hopkins plays C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis was an old bachelor professor at Oxford who falls in love with and marries a younger, American woman a few years before she dies of cancer. When she was sick he has a discussion with some of his colleagues, (one of them a vocal agnostic) about why he still prayed for her when it was obviously hopeless that she would recover. He said, "I don’t pray to change God, I pray to change me." I don’t know if C.S. Lewis actually said that, and I’ve searched in vain for that quote. But I’d never thought of that before, and it completely changed the way I approached prayer.
3. Notice that Enos does not wrestle with God, but the wrestles "before God." He was struggling with himself, mustering faith in Christ, before he received a remission of his sins.
4. Another quote I could not find the source for says, "the wrestle Enos had before God was with himself. Sometimes the greatest effort is put forth when a person contends with himself before the Lord. Such wrestling is the struggle to find and express one’s real desires which are sometimes hidden behind sin, evasion and cover-up. Wrestling with oneself involves deep thought, meditation, and concentration. It means going beyond the cliche level of prayer to the point that one truly puts his soul into words and offers them to God. Repetitions cease to be vain, trite, or unfelt. Instead, each phrase is an expression of a yearning desire to do God’s will. Such prayers are assisted and guided by the Holy Spirit.
5. In Enos 1:15 it says, "Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it." But the things we ask for in faith will comply with the will of God.
IV. Enos as a paradigm for a righteous life.
A. In addition to being an example of prayer, Enos is also an example of a righteous life. Specifically, the book of Enos tells of his spiritual rebirth, his dedication of the rest of his life to the spiritual welfare of the Nephites and Lamanites and enduring to the end, and the last days of his life when he had the assurance that he would be granted eternal life. This is the type of life to which all of us should aspire.
B. Enos’s spiritual rebirth. There were several steps that went into Enos’s being "born again."
1. An awakening. He says the words of his father "sunk deep into (his) heart" and that his "soul hungered." He had a desire first - an awakening to his own guilt.
2. Correct Doctrine. Enos needed to have been taught correct doctrine, namely faith in Jesus Christ, to be born again.
3. Repentance. We saw what Enos went through to receive forgiveness of his sins. It was more than just being sorry. It was more than just asking for forgiveness.
a. Elder Theodore M. Burton of the Seventy described this in these terms: "Just what is repentance? Actually, in some ways it is easier to understand what repentance is not than to understand what it is. As a General Authority, I have prepared information for the First Presidency to use in considering applications to readmit repentant transgressors into the Church and to restore priesthood and temple blessings. Many times a bishop will write, ‘I feel he has suffered enough!’ But suffering is not repentance. Suffering comes from lack of complete repentance. A stake president will write, ‘I feel he has been punished enough!’ But punishment is not repentance. Punishment follows disobedience and precedes repentance. A husband will write, ‘My wife has confessed everything!’ But confession is not repentance. Confession is an admission of guilt that occurs as repentance begins. A wife will write, ‘My husband is filled with remorse!’ But remorse is not repentance. Remorse and sorrow continue because a person has not yet fully repented. Suffering, punishment, confession, remorse, and sorrow may sometimes accompany repentance, but they are not repentance. What, then, is repentance?" Elder Burton then examined both the Hebrew and Greek words translated from "repentance." Both words mean thoroughly changing or turning from evil to God and righteousness. So repentance is a completely change in soul. That is what Enos had here.
4. Forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the Lord when we truly repent.
5. Faith in Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is granted only through the atonement of Christ.
C. Enos Endured to the end.
1. Just being "born again" is not enough to ensure our salvation. What did Enos do after he was born again? Enos 1:19. He spent the rest of his life doing good and helping others.
D. Enos is ensured eternal life.
1. Read Enos 1:26-27. This is how we should all hope to end our lives; with a complete personal satisfaction that we will return to God. And Enos, in his short book, tells us exactly how to do this.
V. Conclusion. The Book of Enos is very short, but it teaches us as much about prayer and the plan of salvation as any book of scripture. I pray that I can use Enos as an example to help make my prayers more meaningful and endure till the end to receive salvation.
Bill Beardall GD
Bruce Satterfield - Meridian Magazine