Nephi wrote that he taught his children to “liken the scriptures unto [them], that it might be for [their] profit and learning.” (1 Nephi 19:23). This is where the real value – and power – lies within the Book of Mormon for us – in our ability to see these people as real people, not just characters in compelling stories. These were ordinary people who had learned this important truth taught by President Faust:
“The Lord said, ‘For many are called, but few are chosen.’ We are called when hands are laid upon our heads . . . but we are not chosen until we have demonstrated to God our righteousness, our faithfulness, and our commitment.” (Ensign, Nov. 2005, p. 55)
It seems that the qualifier of being chosen by the Lord is that we first choose Him. He waits to give all His children the spiritual gifts and blessings that they need to become sanctified – that is, to come back into His presence. In all the pictures of Christ standing outside a closed door, knocking, the door never has a doorknob – signifying that Christ will only enter if He is invited, if He is wanted. We must choose Him first. The elect of God are the obedient, and any one of His children can be obedient – if we want it.
Nephi wants to know for himself the things that his father taught him. Through obedience, he chose the Lord by going to ask. His brothers didn’t. When Nephi asked them if they had asked the Lord, they said, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” (1 Nephi 15:9) My friend has written the words ‘Lazy Lament’ in her scriptures by this verse. Can’t you hear the whine in their voices in their answer? ‘The Lord doesn’t tell us anything.’
As we liken the scriptures to ourselves, we can increase our faith by exercising it – by asking for our own spiritual gifts and blessings, rather than enviously assuming that another who seems to be ahead of us spiritually has all the spiritual advantages. The Book of Mormon says over and over again, that the blessings of the Lord are available to all of God’s children, but they must want them enough to pay the price for them. That means: those who have these spiritual blessings have paid that price.
Enos prayed all night for a remission of his sins. What a great example to teach us by asking this implied question: how badly do we want the Lord? How badly do we want to be healed from our spiritual diseases – our sins? What are we willing to give up?
The father of the Lamanite King Lamoni had murder in his heart for the very missionaries that brought him the gospel. Days or weeks later, when these missionaries finally taught him the gospel, he listened with the ability to recognize the evil that was in his heart, and prostrated himself on the earth. He prayed:
“O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.” (Alma 22:18)
As we liken the scriptures to ourselves, can we read about such a man, and through the Spirit, increase our desire to lay all our sins and weaknesses on the altar – a small price to pay – in order to know the Lord, to see Him face to face, to live with Him?
Likening the scriptures to my life has brought me new insights about how we respond to truth when we recognize that it will require us to radically change something in our behavior.
The conversion of Alma Senior gives the example of two individuals who were touched by Abinadi’s message: Alma Senior, and King Noah. President Eyring has taught that we can increase our ability to obey by learning to obey as quickly as we can, as quickly as we recognize the need to make a change (October 2005). Alma Senior did just that. King Noah was also moved by Abinadi’s last words.
“And now king Noah was about to release him, for he feared his word; for he feared that the judgments of God would come upon him.” (Mosiah 17:11)
Here is one of those seconds where an eternal destiny hangs in the balance. Imagine how that kingdom could have been changed if Noah had quickly obeyed that last prompting he received, spoken out for Abinadi, and released him. But the other priests, anxious to preserve their lifestyles, spoke first and swept Noah along with them. He lost his chance, a prophet was martyred, and a wicked man’s fate was sealed by his own actions, or lack, of action.
In 3rd Nephi, a wicked society mocked a righteous people who waited for the sign of Christ’s coming, threatening their lives if the sign didn’t come according to their timetable. Are we not a similar people today, waiting for the Second Coming in a wicked society that mocks our waiting?
The brother of Jared came up with an idea to give light to his family as they crossed an ocean. Was it preposterous, maybe even irreverent to ask God Himself to touch these stones? With the faith of a child, knowing that the Lord could touch the stones, he asked. The man was an ordinary man. The faith he exhibited in devising the plan and bringing his request to the Lord was extraordinary. The Lord responded in an extraordinary way. Later in the book of Ether, Moroni writes:
“And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.
“And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.” (Ether 12:19)
As we liken these scriptures to ourselves, there is an implication that we can see the things that we have already seen with an eye of faith, even on this side of the veil. President Russell M. Nelson implied the same thing in a BYU fireside in December of 2002:
“Difficult days are ahead for all mankind. Sin is on the increase. We live in a time of wars and rumors of wars. The Church and its members will come under attack and endure persecution.
“The time is coming when those who do not obey the Lord will be separated from those who do . . . the greatest gift you could give the Lord at this or any other time of year is to keep yourself unspotted from the world, worthy to attend His holy house. His gift to you will be the peace and security of knowing that you are worthy to meet Him, whenever that time shall come. . .
“Brothers and sisters, I plead with you to rise above the tasks of the day and the hurdles ahead. You can do more than the deeds scheduled in your daily planners. You can take the name of the Lord upon you and become more like Him. You can rise to your great potential.. .
“Remember that the fullness of Christ’s ministry lies in the future. The prophecies of His Second Coming have yet to be fulfilled. . . .At His first coming Jesus came almost in secret. Only a few mortals knew of His birth. At His second coming the whole of humankind will know of His return . . . As a special witness of His holy name I testify that Jesus is the divine Son of the living God. He will love you, lift you, and manifest Himself unto you if you will love Him and
keep His commandments.”
President Nelson adds his powerful modern-day witness to what the Book of Mormon repeatedly teaches us: the Lord’s blessings – even the ultimate blessing of entering His presence – are available to all His obedient children, even in the flesh. The Book of Mormon is a powerful tool, along with the words of the living prophets, to teach us how to pay the price for this blessing.
The ordinary people of the Book of Mormon teach us of the extraordinary blessings God waits to give all His children who want them. He respects our agency so highly, that He can give us these blessings in no other way. The way is simple – not easy, but simple. It starts by wanting it, more than any other thing. If we want it, we can then look to Christ.
As we liken the scriptures to our own lives, the Book of Mormon becomes a handbook – a “How I Did It” book from ordinary people who paid the price to know God. The price we pay is wanting it more than anything else, so we will be willing to lay it all on the altar to taste His goodness, and eventually, enter again into His presence.
By Laureen Simper