Book of Mormon Lesson 36
“On the Morrow Come I into the World”
(You can look up scripture references here: http://gospelink.com/next/browse?cat_id=1.)
A. Today we will be talking about the situation among the Nephites and the Lamanites just before Christ’s birth and the years between his birth and his visitation to the Americas. In these short years the Nephites saw many signs and took many rides on the “pride cycle.” As we read these chapters it is important to liken the scriptures to our own time and lives.
B. Ezra Taft Benson said: “In the Book of Mormon we find a pattern for preparing for the Second Coming.”
1. Just as many signs were given to and ignored by the Nephites of Christ’s first coming, there are many signs that are being ignored today of Christ’s second coming. What are some of these signs?
2. The Bible, the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith all testified of the literal gathering of Israel. 70 years ago during the Holocaust who would have ever believed there would be a gathering of Jews in Palestine? 2000 years ago when the Jews were expelled from Israel who would have predicted that they would even survive as a people. My Hebrew teacher in college was very proud to point out that all the cultures who fought against Israel in ancient times no longer exists, but that the Jews still do. God’s preservation of his chosen people the Jews is one of his greatest miracles that we can see everyday, but the world mostly ignores.
II. Events leading up the birth of Christ
A. Nephi, son of Nephi, son of Helaman, son of Helaman, son of Alma, son of Alma becomes the keeper of the plates and sacred records. 6 generations of leaders of the church from Abinidi’s mission.
B. The elder Nephi leaves Zarahemla and is never heard from again.
C. Read 3rd Nephi 1:4-9
1. Why is it that just when “the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully” the people began to doubt and persecute the believers more?
2. I am thankful that today, although the church is persecuted throughout the world and Satan continues to stir up the hearts of men against us, at least our lives are not threatened for our beliefs as they were here.
a. But we still face opposition. If you want to see what type of opposition we confront each day just Google “Mormon” and see what comes up. You’ll see that there are very few people who wish us well.
b. There is almost perpetually some anti-Mormon book on the best seller’s list. If you want to make sure a movie makes a profit you make a skin flick or a slasher movie, and if you want to make sure a book sells make write and anti-Mormon book. People like to read things that reinforce their stereotypes and prejudices.
c. I don’t have a television at home, but the other day I was staying at a hotel and saw an advertisement for Bill Mahr’s new movie where her goes around the country making fun of and insulting religion and religious people, including Mormons.
d. I am thankful the Book of Mormon provides us with an allegory for this opposition in the Great and Specious building. “And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river or water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth, and it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers toward those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” (1 Nephi 8:26-27). We also know the ultimate fate of the great and spacious building. “That great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great.” (1 Nephi 11:36).
e. If we have faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet than we also know that despite this persecution the work of the Lord will continue. “no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”
III. The sign of the birth of Christ
A. Nephi was sorrowful because of the threats against the righteous. He prays for his people.
B. Read 3rd Nephi 1:12-14
C. The sign is given. Read 3rd Nephi 1:15-18.
D. How did the people respond to this sign? At first there was amazement. But we see how quickly they forget.
1. Read 3rd Nephi 1:22
2. Read 3rd Nephi 2:1-3.
3. Why would people be so quick to forget such an obvious, unmistakable sign?
4. The Book of Mormon Institute manual notes, “Signs flow from faith and, indeed, are a product of it. They strengthen the faithful but produce faith only in the spiritually responsive. Therefore, their chief purpose is not to produce faith, but to reward it. It is not an uncommon thing in scripture to see the most marvelous signs and evidences of God’s power ignored or rationalized away by those without faith.”
5. Maurine Jensen Proctor said: “Thus, while signs do not deeply move the unbeliever, they play a key role in the life of a believer. God says, ‘and he that believeth shall be blest with signs following, even as it is written’ (D&C 68:10).....Unbelievers may say he desires a sign. These people, however, are generally sign seekers not because they would believe, but because they do not wish to do so. They use their demand for a sign as a way to taunt believers. .
IV. The rise of the Gadianton Robbers.
A. Read 3rd Nephi 2:11.
B. There was a war between the righteous Nephites and Lamanites with the Gadianton Robbers. They were no longer just an underground group but a powerful threat.
C. The leader of the Gadianton robbers, Giddianhi, writes a letter to the chief judge Lachoneus and demands that the Nephites surrender themselves and their lands. The righteous Nephites and Lamanites gather themselves together in the Land of Zarahemla, gather their flocks, grain and provisions together and fortify themselves. The Gadianton robbers come and possess their abandoned lands, but they don’t have anything to live off of, so they are forced to go to battle with the Nephites. They are defeated in a great battle and Giddianhi is killed. A new leader Zemnarihah tries to surround Zarahemla and starve the people out.
1. Read 2 Nephi 4:15-20.
2. Here is an obvious reminder about food storage and emergency preparations. We are lucky enough to have living prophets who do not only give us spiritual counsel but temporal counsel. They have told us repeatedly about food storage. Are we listening? What if these Nephites had not listened to Lachoneus?
3. This is also a reminder that evil groups and secret combinations cannot exist without the complicity of the society in which they reside. Hugh Nibley did a detailed analysis of the Gadianton Robbers in his book Since Cumorah: the Book of Mormon in the Modern World. He concluded that: “they cannot thrive or even survive without the acceptance and encouragement of the society in general. Being predatory and non-productive, i.e., parasites, they must have a complacent society to host and support them. Such a society is one which accepts as desirable the Gadianton goals of power and gain.”
D. The Nephites are able to defeat and destroy the Gadianton robbers. The Gadianton robbers who repent are basically given amnesty and allowed to have land and live among the Nephites again.
V. Inequality in the land destroys the church and the Nephites.
A. They Nephites return to their lands and prosper again without the Gadianton Robbers bothering them.
B. But then there began to be contention and inequality among the Nephites. Read 3rd Nephi 6:10-14.
1. Is there a problem with inequality in the Church today? Is it a threat to the Church today? How can we avoid this separation by rank in the church?
2. Mark 10:44 “And whosoever of you will be chiefest, shall be servant of all.”
a. My brother is an astronomer in Omaha, Nebraska. He went to 4 years of undergraduate school, 5 years of graduate school, 4 years of post-graduate studies and he is constantly doing research today. I would guess that he is the most educated person in his ward in Omaha. Unlike our wards here in Utah, the boundaries of his ward probably take up half the city, so there are very rich and very poor people in his congregation. He was made ward mission leader last year. His ward has already had 18 convert baptisms this year - more than any other ward in the state. My brother invites all the new converts to dinner. Some of them are immigrants from other countries. Many of them are not in good financial situations. He has helped them fill out job applications and immigration forms. He has driven them to work and to school. I think this is a good example of how to avoid these distinctions by rank - by serving everyone.
C. We are told the source of these divisions and wickedness. Read 3rd Nephi 6:15-18.
D. Neal A. Maxwell said: “Unlike Jesus, sometimes we first provide access for and then augment our own temptations. By paying even small heed to a temptation, we thus forget that temptations are like a poison gas–they spread through the time and space available to them. Once inside and rebuked, they are not easily contained. Another advantage of dispatching temptations is this: the human mind is remarkably retentive. We must be careful of what we allow in our mind, for it will be there for a long time, reasserting itself at those very times when we may be most vulnerable. Just as harmful chemicals heedlessly dumped in a vacant lot can later prove lethal, so toxic thoughts and the mulching of the wrong memories in the vacant corner of the mind also take their toll. What happens, of course, when we persist in savoring temptations, whether they are temptations of wealth, power, status, or sensuality, is well portrayed by what we read of another people in another time: ‘Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.’ This people actually lost both personal and social control, as these words vividly portray: ‘And thus, the commencement of the thirtieth year–the people having been delivered up for the space of a long time to be carried about by the temptations of the devil withersoever he desired to carry the, and to do whatsoever iniquity he desired they should–and thus they were in a state of awful wickedness.’ Surely it should give us more pause that it does to think of how casually we sometimes give to him who could not control his own ego in the premortal world such awful control over our egos here. We often let the adversary do indirectly now what we refused to let him do directly then.”
VI. The Nephite Government is completely destroyed.
A. In Chapter 6 we see that some of the lesser judges misused their authority to execute people who testified of their wickedness. (This sounds familiar to us today where judges misuse their power.) The chief judge tries to put them back in line, but they and their followers protect themselves by starting up secret combinations again.
B. They kill the chief judge and the people divide into tribes. Their government destroyed, an antichrist named Jacob tries to become King, but is only able to become king over one of the tribes. Their government being completely destroyed the Nephite nation is in utter chaos and wickedness just before the visitation of Christ.
A. Consider again President Benson’s statement that within the Book of Mormon we find a pattern for the Second coming.
B. Joseph Smith said: “Even this nation will be on the verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground, and when the constitution is upon the brink of ruin, this people will be the Staff upon which the Nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the verge of destruction.”
C. I pray that we can become and remain this stable force in the chaotic world. Amen.